Saturday 16 February 2019

Saturday Snippets

Fings Ain't What The Used To Be
Remember Max Bygraves in 1957 - most of our readers won't;they are not ancient enough!

They changed our local Palais into a bowling alley and
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

There's Teds in drainpipe trousers and Debs in coffee houses and
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

There used to be Trams not very quick
Gotcha from place to place

But now there's just jams half a mile thick
I'm walking

They stuck parking meters outside our doors to greet us
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

Corr monkeys flying round the moon
We'll be up there with em soon
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

Once our beer was frothy but now its frothy coffee well

It used to be fun Dad an old Mum paddling down old Southend
But now it ain't done
Never mind chum
Paris is now where we spend our outings

At Brighton
Another old railway notice came to light a couple of weeks ago.
Reproduction is a bit fizzy but the luxury train offered three round trips between capital and resort )two on Sundays). Departures from Victoria were at 12.00am(sic), 3.00pm and 7.00pm. Up journeys were at 3.25pm, 5.25pm and 9.25pm. Apparently London-bound "commuters" were not offered Pullman service.

Readers may be able to date the page from the price of Luncheon at three shillings and six pence (about £20 in today's money).

Green Pea Soup OR Hors d'Oeuvres

Roast Chicken OR Lamb Cutlets OR York Ham

Apple and Blackberry Tart OR Orange Salad

Cheese and Biscuits

Then, the Southern were running six trains an hour between London and Brighton. 

At Bedford
Northampton correspondent Alan sent this picture.
He reminds fbb.

Here is the last 160 page Bedford Bus Guide, published in 2016 before Bedford Borough Council opted out  of providing public transport information. It contained –

Seventeen pages of useful background information including
School term dates 
Concessionary fares
User groups – BABUS and Bus Users UK
Real time information
Address, phone and website  information for all bus and train operators.

Summary timetables for
Bedford to Bromham
Bedford to Clapham
Bedford to Clophill.
Bedford to Woottton

Timetables for all bus services.

Index of places served.

And the maps.

This blog has already commented on the new report about loss of subsidised services but how about this for a typical piece of journalism?
There couldn't be a connection between a decline on passenger numbers and the lack of accessible information? Surely not? It is, after all, ALL ON-LINE. 

And then in Sheffield:-
No great loss - they were usually busted and the strip of badly printed ticket sized paper was often unreadable.

But the PTE is anxious that we should not worry.

How else can I access information? - you can access a range of journey planning tools on the move on our website including live departures, timetables and ticket information. 

Indeed, very true. What percentage of bus travellers regularly use the internet to "access information"?

Departure screens - you can check the departure screens which are located around the interchange to see which stand your bus departs from and when it's due.
Information Hubs - at some of our interchanges we have information areas where you can check which service you need, based on your destination, and find out where it departs from. Information Hubs are located at Sheffield, Barnsley, Meadowhall and Doncaster Interchanges. 

But if you are not at a "hub" - or if the "hub" has unreliable and incomplete information? They are staffed by contractors and not by "bus people".

At your bus stop - timetables are displayed at your bus stop stand.

There are no "proper" timetables at any bus stops in Sheffield - not even at stands at the bus stations. Of course there are departure lists, often badly laid out because it is done by computer and not by bus users. But NO TIMETABLES - even where there is oodles of frame space to display them.

Customer Service Assistants - roaming staff are on hand to help you at the interchange or you can visit one of our customer service desks for information.

The only time fbb has ever met a roving "customer service assistant", he was told off for going out of a door at Barnsley bus station and standing (behind a very strong fence) to take a photograph. No such creature has even been spotted by fbb during normal bus operation in Sheffield High Street, Arundel Gate or at the busy stops near the Town Hall.

On many occasions, fbb (in visitor observation mode) has been the only supplier of bus information at busy city centre stops.

But It's All on Line!
Making no apologies for repetition (maybe one day someone will take notice) fbb invites readers to spot the errors in these on-line timetables. And remember that, because of the errors, journey planners give wrong information as well.

No buses after 0907 from Charnock Dale Road?
ALL buses serve that stop - without exception.

Route 88 to Bents Green?
But where are the buses that go there?
Not a single journey to Bents Green appears in the timetable. Journey planners insist that you change at Banner Cross.

On to the next service 88!

For at least seven years this nonsense has been promulgated by Stagecoach and repeated by SYPTE (South Yorkshire Passenger Transport non executing Executive). 

Next month you will be able to catch a brand new First Bus 208 FROM Dinnington Comprehensive School ...
... but the outward journey will never take you there.
Perhaps because no such educational establishment exists!!? It has, like so many other schools, been rebranded a few years ago.
No through journeys on the 208 in journey planners either.
Surely the through journeys should appear even if they take a few minutes longer. They do not appear because they are not correctly included in the database. So nobody bothers to include them.

O.K. picky anonymice, this "rant" is not new - but why does the nonsense continue? The solution is cheap and requires a small application of the human brain. For negligible effort, publicity can become HELPFUL, not just the regurgitation of poorly managed computer data.

There are a few who are making a real effort. Here is the"editorial" from James Freeman at First Bristol.
Instead of "running buses" perhaps management should rethink their role. How about a determined policy to "sell bus travel" to the eager public?

Northampton chum Alan's parlous attempt to find adequate printed information ANYWHERE in the centre of Bedford suggests that most operators (Grant Palmer being the exception) ...
... are doing very little selling!

Tomorrow includes a note about two empty trains; and a busker you might enjoy (?).


 Next oddments blog : Sunday 17th February 


  1. In the Hampshire County Council consultation last year, 61% who responded said they used the County's Travel Guides which were retained on that basis. Bus use In Hampshire is rising.

  2. Here's a very long quote from Transport Focus's 2014 research "How late is late - What bus passengers think about punctuality and timetables":
    "The circumstances in which passengers in this research used published timetables varied enormously.
    Regular bus passengers, especially those using turn-up-and-go services or more frequent scheduled services less than 10 minutes apart, tended not to refer to published timetables day to day. Rather, they relied on experience, and sometimes information passed on by others in relation to changes, to understand what time their buses ran.
    However, these passengers would use timetables for new journeys (for example, undertaken at new times of day or to new destinations). They were also more likely to check timetables periodically for less frequent services they used, given the impact of missing the bus was potentially significant.
    Bus passengers who used the bus less regularly were more likely to use a published timetable for their journeys. As might be expected, they tended to be less familiar with bus services. They were sometimes inclined to check information to be sure that it had not changed since their last use. In other cases, the journey itself might be a ‘one-off’ and need investigating as a new journey.
    “Every couple of weeks I check my bus timetable online to be sure nothing changed ... I look at the West Yorkshire website the night before.”
    Infrequent passenger, Leeds
    “I kind of know the bus from the village goes at 10 past and 10 to but I tend to check a timetable beforehand, usually online.”
    Infrequent passenger, rural Devon".

    It's five years old and use of websites, especially via mobile, has just grown and grown. And one of the reasons they are preferred by a lot of the public is that they just want information from where they are to where they want to go. Printed timetables have NEVER offered such a comprehensive source of such information: no list of stops between timing points, and if at the roadside, often not even an indication of where you are on the route.

    The printed departure lists that now dominate roadside information deliver what most people want to know. Not, as a recent Transport Focus presentation stated, what transport nerds want to know. Yes, I'll always want a timetable and I strongly believe they should be available (but that may mean "self-service" via the web) but many people don't, and can't understand them anyway.

    As for the decline in passenger numbers, to suggest that printed information plays a major role in this flies in the face of evidence of falling footfall in retail locations all over the country. Marks & Spencer is shutting in Bedford, Huddersfield and Hull, not to mention a whole host of smaller towns - and of course already gone in Northampton. You can have the best printed publicity in the world, but it can't counteract the fact that fewer and fewer people want to visit town centres, whether for shopping, leisure or any other reason.

  3. Govia still run six trains an hour between Brighton and London.

  4. I was recently at a Transport Focus event looking at how to make the bus more attractive to a particular age group. Lots of things were mentioned as barriers to use, lots of ideas to improve things were suggested, but printed timetables were not mentioned all day.

    I know it annoys FBB, but my comments need to be "anon" here. One success story shared with the meeting was an add-on to an existing timetable, outside the normal hours of operation. It was aimed quite specifically at one traffic source. The company had loads in the 50s and 60s on many journeys and is looking at making the experimental service permanent, and adding similar routes at the opposite end of its territory. The secret? A Facebook page aimed specifically at the customer group of the traffic generator!

    Another operator, talking over lunch, was saying that the days when their buses lined both sides of the main road in the city centre were numbered as a whole network re-think was needed. This is a company with good paper publicity, a city centre travel shop, prominent route branding, and who has expanded significantly into the hinterland in the past five years who recognises that the shopping centre isn't the draw it once was. The best paper timetable book in the world, delivered door-to-door won't make people travel where they don't want to go.

    Yes, information, and the lack of it, is a barrier to the non-bus user, but they don't want a timetable; they want clear information on a multi-operator, multi-modal app, rail, bus, ferry, walking routes all in one place. They want bus stops announced, either on board, or via big signs visible on board, with names that make sense and aren't just a field from the NaPTAN record and including the fact that this is the stop for the shopping centre, the multiplex or whatever. They want fares information, showing options for day and group tickets and they want all this before the get near a bus. But the also want an approachable, well informed, driver who can remove any doubt they may still have, while they conduct the transaction with a bus load of passengers staring at them, wondering what's taking so long.

    Open Bus Data provides the industry with great opportunities, but it also brings with it great responsibility to get that data correct, including adding "dummy" journey extensions to correctly show loops. Operators are keen to say "use it or lose it" to passengers; Open Bus Data is arguably the industry's "use it [properly] or lose it [your market]".

    Thus Transport Focus event closed with delegates in no doubt that growth is possible, but there is no quick-fix, no single answer. We need to adapt, not once, but continually, to our markets, we need to work with partners - not just the formal Bus Services Act type partnerships between bus companies and local authorities, but with all sorts of organisations (big employers, retailers, colleges etc etc), we need to make a positive from the perception that the bus doesn't offer door-to-door transport that the car offers; a brisk walk to the bus stop is good for you! Sorry FBB, but a detailed timetable book of all routes, which might be out of date when you remember its on your shelf, doesn't feature in the mix.

  5. Online information is part of the timetable publishing diaspora of information, as is availability of printed material (on and off the bus). Some operators are not very good at removing out of date timetables from the internet though - and google finds them too often. There is a need to ensure that previous timetables are removed from websites when new information is posted. Just as I used to do in my operating days when taking new printed timetables to our agents, offices and TICs - I asked for our old leaflets, checked their racks, and took the out of date ones away with me for recycling.