Tuesday, 19 November 2019

It's All On Line - Episode 276

You may not have heard of Donnington, which is a small community just north of Newbury on the road across the downs to Wantage. The fbbs often drive that way when visiting the family. Of interest to the well-heeled is Donnington Grove Country Club ...
... which looks super-posh and thus super-expensive. It has its own goff course - of course! Also nearby is Donnington Valley Goff Club ...
... in a similar cheque book bracket, also with hotel accommodation.

The fbbs are more for B&B prices!

The village has properties matching the style of the goff courses ...
... and a pub called "The Castle".
Notice the bus stop!

Donnington Castle is a trot or two outside the village where its ruins sit under the care of English Heritage.
fbb is enormously grateful to No 1 son and No 2 grandson for preparing a video outlining the history of the Castle. No 1 son apologises that some of the facts may not be 100% accurate, but the broad-brush overview is good enough for the purposes of this blog. (you may need to turn your sound volume up a tad to hear all the fascinating details.)
Close to the fork in the road (left for Wantage) and set back from the present main road, is a small terrace of more humble dwellings ...
... and in one of these lives the redoubtable Maisie Miggins.

On Saturday 30th November, Maisie has been invited to travel up to London where she will meet her twin sister Minnie and together they will adjourn to an hotel near Paddington Station for a posh nosh lunch (at 1230 prompt)  to celebrate their 70th Birthday.
The question for Maisie (and for our blog readers) is simple. Can she achieve this by public transport, leaving from the bus stops outside the Castle Inn.

fbb will explain all (well, most of it) in tomorrow's blog.

In the meantime fbb has received an email from an occasional (and much respected) correspondent, Richard.

Richard explains patiently to fbb that as all (most?) bus companies have all their management and planning done via clever computer software, they have every possible bit of data imaginable. Surely, he opines, it makes sense to feed this into enquiry systems. next bus systems and the like and surely, he continues, this must be better for the public.

To support his view he snapped this bus stop ...
... at the R S P B visitor centre at Sherwood Forest, just up the road from Edwinstowe.
The stop and shelter are located in the car parking area.
The stop is served by Stagecoach's "Sherwood Arrow" ...
... augmented on Sundays by journeys on the 15a.
But look closely at the timetable "frame" on the stop pole. Here it is enlarged.
Richard writes:-

I spotted this bus stop outside the new RSPB Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. It may have a traditional shelter and timetable frame, but also has solar powered bus stop and display frame. The next departures given in the photo as timetabled times, would change to real time countdown minutes when the bus was near enough (The Sherwood Arrow is a Stagecoach route and their buses are tracked and info available). As the screen changes as a bus approaches, the format and info on the screen can no doubt be changed from an office somewhere remotely without having to design and print a piece of paper and then drive round to post it. It was very legible and quite impressive really. I think it had an LED light above as well.

fbb will refrain from his usual beef that there are no timetables on display. For those you would need to visit Traveline or the Stagecoach web site.

And one key question. How much does this cost and thus it is really cheaper than printing and posting a sheet of paper?

And a second key question. What happens when the local youff give it a hefty biff whilst perhaps being under the alfluence of incohol.

fbb does not know how widespread these electronic "frames" are. He had certainly never seen one before!

A Splendid Stagecoach Service
An oddity occurred yesterday afternoon. At about 1620 Mrs fbb rushed in through the front door and reported that there was a 9A bus (Exeter, Seaton, Lyme Regis) parked just along the road.
fbb sprant out to investigate. The driver explained.

As he drove towards fbb mansions he saw an elderly gentleman fall over at the edge of the street.

Said driver stopped his bus and went to help.

A chair and blankets were sourced and the ambulance called.
The driver insisted on staying until help arrived - over one hour later.

Well done that man!

 On Line Episode 277 blog : Wednesday 20th November 


  1. Well done indeed that driver ... but what about passengers waiting for said 9A bus? The only way they would have found out that it wasn't coming would have been IF the driver had informed the Office, IF the office had been open, IF a message could be placed on Twitter or the bus company's App, and IF waiting passengers had (unlike me) a Smartphone with decent reception. Technology can be useful!

  2. Mr Kleisner does indeed shine the light on the flipside of the good deed (not wishing to sound curmudgeonly) as to the other passengers. Of course, it may be that some passengers will have wandered out for a bus that never came but for others, they will have been able to discover this and the use of smartphones and apps is not confined to millennials.

    This leads onto (what I suspect) what will be FBB's chuntering against technology in favour of papyrus and quills. Naturally, I'm sure that Donnington has a transport hub with fully manned travel office, an amazing survivor of a Tilling built building dating from the 1950s with snack bar etc where printed media is available 24/7....

    The world is increasingly technology and digitally based and we can't simply complain that it's not like it was. The world keeps changing and public transport has to embrace it. Hence the reason for the digital timetable case. Frankly, I'm surprised that we weren't at this point a few years ago and, to answer FBB's question, all you have to do is work out the time and cost (incl. all the stuff like NI and pensions) and then add on a van and derv in which to travel to said stop etc. It very quickly adds up so a frame will pay for itself in a couple of years. It's particularly sensible in more rural areas where the chance of vandalism is lower and the costs of undertaking timetable changes is much higher.

    I've made the comment before, very tongue in cheek. FBB doesn't print his blog out and distribute it and for very good reason.

  3. Apologies - Mr Kleissner!

  4. The problem with the increasing use of app & internet based solutions is not simply one of accuracy. Yes, these should be developed & used but as additional ways of communicating. Any organisation must be careful not to leave people behind as it embraces technology.
    I am currently wrestling with my bank which insists that "everyone has a smart phone". I don't. Nor do I want one. Will they buy one for me & pay for it? I doubt it.
    Perhaps that should be a Labour Party policy too. (Removes tongue from cheek)

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  6. The 9A is a Stagecoach service with buses tracked by GPS. Central control and potentially Sidmouth depot may have been automatically alerted to the delay. In any case the company and the public can see that the bus isn't moving - I could have done so on my PC miles away.

    The driver no longer has to find a phone box, insert coins, press button A and tell the depot. Passengers can still do what they have always done - stand and wait or give up. Only today can GPS, internet and data sharing provide the extra info so passengers and the business can re-plan life with knowledge.

    What we don't know was what did Stagecoach implement as a recovery option; Was the journey simply missed out of the rest of the day or a replacement bus and driver provided beyond Sidmouth or what?

  7. The concept of an electronic display has been around for a while, SPT experimented as far back as 2005. Apart from real time tracking it wasn't far off the current implementation.

  8. Amazed FBB hasn't picked up the 'Ollerton' destination on the Sherwood Arrow departures. No buses terminate at Ollerton - they all continue to either Retford or Worksop - stupid EU section splitting again!

  9. TfL have at least one digital timetable display on trial. There was one at Sloane Square about 12 months ago. Legible enough but it wasn't immediately obvious what it was. Problem was it scrolls onto the next route whilst you're reading the timetable you want. It needs a pause button or something otherwise it's stupidly frustrating and you're trying to read so quickly in case it changes that you don't read it properly.

  10. The only place I've seen a digital timetable (or:really ,list of departures) at a bus stop (as opposed to bus station) is at King Street in Stroud, Glos (this stop:https://www.google.com/maps/@51.7453783,-2.2187103,3a,15y,4.35h,83t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sbm6Z-JSWRU7DWQ_nNZ-Z6Q!2e0!7i16384!8i8192) . The screen looks like "e-paper" (as on some of the Amazon kindle e-readers). It's not perfect, but it's better than out-of-date paper timetables that are never removed or replaced.

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