Friday 29 September 2017

Critical Cymric Contrasts (4)

Good Grief : Ghastly Gwynedd (again)
From yesterday's blog, we can note that there are timetables on the Gwynedd Council web site, all ready to print but not printed to "save money". There are no maps. Across the border in Conwy you can get a booklet with excellent maps, plenty of support information and well laid out timetables. Across he Menai Bridges, in Anglesey, there is no book but the usual maps and all the timetables sit there on-line ready to print.

It is really hard to understand the thinking at Council HQ.
But we must have a closer look at those bus stops called "Bangor Cloc" but invisible from the cloc! Thanks to correspondent Alan, we have a picture of the astoundingly wonderful information on offer at one of the stands.
Regular readers will know that fbb is not a great lover of departure lists which may offer a useful quick reminder to regular travellers but are decidedly unhelpful to tourists and those locals who might be choosing bus for the first time. Note that there is plenty of empty wall, ideal for displaying enlargements of all the book-ready on-line timetable pages.
Here, in the frame on the stop, the confuser has done what its name suggests and confusingly grouped together anything and everything going to Caernarfon.

The T2 and the 2 run on Sundays only offering four journeys to Barmouth with the three T2s continuing to Aberystwyth.
The 5A, 5B and 5C are variants of the 5 and X5 which we met at Llandudno Junction, well not "at" but "near-ish" if you can find them. In fact the main service, every 15 minutes, is the 5C ...
... with the 5A being an "oddments", also going to Caernarfon and beyond, but not included in the main timetable.
5B journeys go via Bethel ...
... a location which is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it locality on the back road B4366. Y Felinheli used to be Port Dinorwic and Fictoria (Victoria Hotel) no longer exists. fbb has failed, as yet, to identify "Bodarwydd" on the 5C timetable.

But back to the helpful information at Shelter B and services 9 and 9A, operated by Express rather than Arriva and following slightly different routes in Bangor..
9s are advertised withwith service X1 (etc) from Caernarfon to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Notice that the headers to the departure list offer a wide range of "via" points (Coleg Menai, Y Felinheli etc.) which are inconsistent and thus useless.

Which leaves the 72 and 73. These  do NOT run to Caernarfon, but also go to Bethel ...
... via a circular route, mostly as 73s but with a few 72s going the other way round. Why are these listed with the main road routes?

Can we work out which way they go? Possibly with good local knowledge or a good map. Oh, whoops, there isn't a good local map.
But there is a bad one; which is too coarse a scale to show the 72/73.

Our trek now takes us to Caernarfon and a possible source of bus information there. Just along the road, barely 100 yards away, from Gwynedd Council offices is this building.
It is the address given for Tourist Information, as advertised on-line.

Discover more about the town of Caernarfon situated on the Menai Straits between mainland North Wales and the Isle of Anglesey, at Caernarfon Tourist Information Centre. Our premises are packed with lots of information to help you plan your trip whether you’d like help with bus & car route planning, you’re looking for bed & breakfast, self-catering or hotel accommodation, or just want to know what visitor attractions you can visit, then call in and let us offer you some advice. The area has lots to offer, including Caernarfon Castle and The West Highland Light Railway.

Here is the helpful sign in the quirky little window.
On-line is even less encouraging.
Gwynedd County has closed ALL is Tourist Offices.

Beyond belief.

Correspondent Alan writes:-

In her 2008 dissertation for Bangor University Dr. Megan Williams said of the Festiniog Railway.

The results from analysing the expenditure on food, accommodation and other purchases by visitors and volunteers, as well as spending by the Company, show that the Railway annually generates a contribution of about £9 million to the regional economy. When you add in the contribution  from   all the other attractions in the area (Portmerion, Harlech Castle, Osprey watching  etc,  etc), and allow for inflation  the tourist industry is reckoned to be worth nearly £1 billion to the local economy.

So what a spiffing wheeze of Gwynedd Council to close the tourist offices in Caernarfon, Porthmadog and Barmouth.   I admit that local tourist offices are usually hopeless at providing public transport information but at least if one  is open they might let you have a copy of the bus timetables they keep  in the locked cupboard in the back office.

Hotels and tourist attractions have stands weighed down with leaflets advertising all the things to do in the area but there are never any   local bus maps or timetables   to be  seen on them, because  of course

“It’s all on our website”

In the case of Gwynedd, of course, it isn't.

And if you thought that the bus stop information in Bangor was poor, this is a display at Dinas ...
... near a station on the Welsh highland Railway; this stop, to be precise.
Here is a closer look at the display on the pole.
Even if you could read it, it remains a huge challenge to understand what it might be telling you.
Alan's final piece of advice is this:-

So if you are planning to use public transport in the area around Caernarfon, Pwllheli, Porthmadog and Beddgelert, print out copies of any public transport timetables you might need before leaving home.

To which fbb adds:-

Or take a holiday in East Devon.
Seaton is very nice.
But there is one common sense positive public transport feature of North Wales (indeed the whole of Wales) ...
Traveline's phone service is FREE ...

... as it should be everywhere. It is an absolute travesty of common sense that customers should have to PAY to find out what bus companies have on sale.

Tomorrow we meet a Duchess, amongst other things.

 A Railway Round-Up blog : Saturday 30th September 


  1. Ynys Mon (Anglesey) publishes a timetable book, complete with maps (at least it did to the 2nd September this year - the last one I have).

    Service T2 is part of the Traws Cymru network, offering a 7-day per week service. On weekdays there are 4 departures to Aberystwyth plus one "short" journey to Dolgellau and one to Machynlleth. They do not serve Barmouth - rather you change to the T3 at Dolgellau.

  2. Departure lists are much easier to read than multiple different timetables

  3. Quote "It is really hard to understand the thinking at Council HQ."

    OK, lets offer an insight, it goes like this:

    Shall we spend our money on vulnerable adults or buses?
    Libraries, or buses?
    Child protection, or buses?
    Pot holes, or buses?

    And what looks like a simple task to enlarge a few timetable pages and post them on a wall display can't be done in isolation at one stop, but needs to be done at all main bus stops. Does it take much longer to do the extra work? Maybe not, but when you're probably already struggling to produce and post what there is every extra display added is significant.

    Times have changed, indeed, times are hard, and still getting harder. The few staff that are left are getting increasingly disillusioned by it all as it doesn't sit well with what they (for the most part) passionately believe.

  4. Disagree, anonymous above. Times are not hard. The UK has one of the strongest economies in the world; there is plenty of money around. Times have been MADE hard by short-sighted political policies (from all colours of the political spectrum). If we want better hospitals, pot holes, buses (and everybody says they want some of these things) then we need to increase taxation to pay for them. SIMPLE.
    And stop making excuses.

    And please, please; it's not the staff's fault. fbb has never said that.

    1. I'm sorry but this is naive at the very extreme. The fact is that the Tories who have pushed the austerity agenda were re-elected in 2015 and are still are government now. And they have cynically cut the central grant to local authorities, leaving them with the very real challenge of being told to cut their cloth but loading the responsibility onto local authorities. I might add that whilst the Labour party may have improved their standing, they didn't win the election.

      Gwynedd actually did a broad consultation to see what areas they wanted to protect more than others. Things like school breakfast clubs and leisure centres were deemed as priorities by the locals not bus service information provision.

      The cuts elsewhere in Gwynedd have seen jobs losses, office closures but cutting back of many other activities such as parks and gardens. Perhaps the good people of Gwynedd thought that protecting leisure centres for their benefit was better than TICs for the benefit of tourists?

      Oh, and Gwynedd DID raise the council tax by as much as they thought they'd be able to get away with but the cost of providing other services in an intensely rural county is disproportionately expensive.

      My issue with FBB's article is the idea that these moves haven't been done to "save money" as he put it. Clearly, they have been made to make savings and, as I seem to recall, the
      GBBTT wasn't given away free but had a substantial cost, reflecting the man hours and publishing costs associated with it.

    2. FBB thinks that public transport exists in a 1950s bubble and flings unfounded accusations around when any change is made either by choice or enforced by circumstances.

    3. That's absolute gash. Have you been in a cave for the last 10 years?

  5. Perhaps we should all take a step back and ask why we expect councils to provide bus information in the first place? Prior to deregulation only those councils that ran their own buses did so. Elsewhere, NBC companies produced their own timetable books, some of which also contained other operators' services. Independent operators either took advantage of this, produced their own or relied on the fact that all the locals knew the unchanging timetable off by heart.

    County councils only got involved when the 1985 Act gave them the duty to ensure bus services were adequately publicised (which is different from saying they had to do it themselves). The thinking behind the Act was that on-road competition would be the norm, so county councils saw themselves as a source of comprehensive and unbiased information leading to them taking over bus stop information from operators and producing timetable books and leaflets.

    On road competition is now very rare and in much of the country large swathes of the network are in the hands of one or perhaps two operators. Provided these do their job properly, which they have a commercial incentive to do, why should cash-strapped local authorities seek to duplicate or even replace their efforts?

    1. Sorry, but that's not wholly true.Public transport provision and coordination (and subsidy!)became a County responsiblity under the 1968 Transport Act. Durham and Northumberland, to name two, were ptoducing comprehensive books from 1975/6 and Devon and the bigger pre-1996 Gwynedd cooperated with the local NBC companies to make sure that all operators were included.
      It is true that the evils of austerity have done for much publicity, but the 'all on the internet' policy has become the norm- driven, I fear, by the way 'digital natives' operate. Smartphone ownership is now at 60% which is hardly universal- I don't yet own one and am not keen on lugginga PC round on days out! As Barry Doe has commented, cutting out publicty amd mrketing totllay hardly encourges use and arguably loses more money than it saves.

  6. Having taken a step back, as sensibly suggested by Jim above, I started wondering.

    What if a full and comprehensive (whatever that might mean in reality) range of printed publicity was available, maps included, from a wide range of outlets, including by post.

    What if stops all had departure lists, but important stops and those where interchange is possible had full timetable and stop maps, what if railway stations had bus information, and bus stations had rail information (add ferries and trams etc where appropriate).

    And what if all this was backed up with electronic (web, app etc) information, including journey planners, timetables, PDFs of leaflets (to suit all tastes).

    What would the actual result be in the fare box? Would passenger numbers soar to the level that frequencies would need to increase? Would currently supported routes become commercial? Or would the paper recycling companies be the only beneficiaries? I really don't know, but I'd suggest that there is a plateau above which usage won't rise no matter how well advertised a service is. But maybe an operator would like to try? Or maybe they feel that they have and already know the answer...

    1. For timetables, departure lists and journey planners substitute a national system of road numbers and signposting, road network maps widely available from High Street outlets (and petrol stations), in-car satellite-navigation systems (and, of course all fuel purchased being freely "interavailable" being routes and drivers) and see what the effect has been on car traffic.

    2. "being" should read "between" (predictive text strikes again!)