Thursday, 28 May 2020

Out Of Lockdown - Metrobus (2)

No 3 son, currently trapped in Haywards Heath (not a pleasant fate!?), sent fbb pictures of a bus stop near the station.
The stop is labelled (good!) "Jireh Court" ...
... which is a private road serving a block of flats of which there is a great proliferation in central Haywards Heath.
Two operators are shown, one of which is Metrobus whose "main line" services to East Grinstead (270) and Crawley (271 and 272) call thereat. 

Timetables (presumably pre-virus) are posted in the frame but covered with new notices. One tells you that something has happened.
It is better than many, however, as, in addition to the usual website/app exhortatation, it gives a company phone number. WELL DONE METROBUS.

The bus operators is always the information source the most likely to be accurate and up to date. happily and sensibly, Metrobus does not hide behind Traveline which, in some areas is weak and in others is palpably useless.

The second notice is, potentially, even better as it tells you what is happening in general terms, but clear enough to give a realistic warning to any potential customer.
South Yorkshire PTE please note.

But there is nothing about service improvements from 1st June; the notices were pictured with less than a week to go.

Wisely again. no mention of Traveline.

As of yesterday Traveline had no mention of the 1st June frequency uplift - but we are advised on both notices to use the Metrobus web site - which we will!

The on-line home page doesn't muck about; before any promotional clutter you are hit full in the face with this:-
fbb would prefer that the small print ...

Special timetables are in place across our network. A service increase is taking place on 1st June - full timetables are available.

... were about five times bigger - but it says it how it is. WELL DONE METROBUS.

One click takes you to the heart of the matter ...

... with a simple choice between current and forthcoming tables. No clutter, no waffle, no long train of clicks to follow; and no pre-virus times to confuse us.

Click on the June 1st text and you get a quick summary ...

Service increase from 1st June

From Monday 1st June we will be increasing our services and operating at 80% of our standard service. This is part of our continued effort to support social distancing as more people return to work.

Please note Routes 21, 22, 84, 273, 280, 281 and 318 have been re-instated.

Routes 11 and 300 are still suspended.

Route 400 is not changing.

Routes that have schoolday and non-schoolday variations are running to a non-schoolday service.

Full details below:

... then follows the timetables in route number order delivered as downloadable and printable PDF files.

For some services the uplift is dramatic. Here is the current 270 (full timetable) ...
... and below we have times from 1st June (extract only).
There will be a full hourly service throughout the day Mondays to Fridays.

In passing, here is Traveline's offer for 1st June, downloaded yesterday lunchtime.

How is the County Council web site coping?

Badly - badly to the point of uselessness.

There is a network map ...
... but the detailed town diagrams are not available on-line and the published map is not up to date. The "interactive map" draws its data from Traveline ...
... so will only be of use from 1st June if Traveline is eventually updated. Obviously, there is no facility for looking into future times.

As far as timetables are concerned ...
... it is back to the unreliable Traveline.

When fbb last wrote critically about lack of reliable timetables, he was upbraided (at considerable length) along the lines of concern for hard working, over-stretched local authorities in the approaches of bankruptcy. The "anonymous" went on to suggest that fbb needed to live in the real world.

Frankly, that is not the point. If local authorities cannot maintain their data for whatever reason, they should stop pretending, stop referring people to Traveline and insist that commercial operators update e.g. their own bus timetable frames.

For tendered services, the provision of bus stop and printed information should be part of the tender.

Rather than going for every possible bell and whistle on complex web sites, they should just supply a map, a list of services and a link to each operator's PDF file. A dead cinch to keep up to date.

Who needs a journey planner anyway?

There is simply no point in having a national journey planner service if, for whatever reason, it is not kept in good order.

Does the 271 go to Kemp Town, as suggested by Traveline?
Of course it doesn't. It goes to Brighton and on to Brighton Hospital!

Compass Bus 37 ...
... goes to Kemp Town.

And, talking of Compass Bus, their services 31, 33 and 39 serve the Jireh Court stop and fbb reckons their timetables are on the other frame on the same pole.
Unfortunately, No 3 Son omitted to photograph "the other side" (SLACKER!!) so fbb is not, at the moment, able to contrast and compare.

Will any printed material be available for Metrobus' uplifted services from Monday?

Unlikely but, in Metrobus' case, IT IS ALL ON LINE!

 More uplift, possibly uplifting, blog : Friday 29th May 


  1. The 271 does go to Kemp Town, the Royal Sussex Hospital (which the 271 goes to, not Brighton Hospital which is elsewhere) is in the middle of Kemp Town. Now you could argue that the use of the Hospital is more useful for a long distance route like the 271 but it isn't inaccurate to state it goes to Kemp Town.

    Once again FBB is overestimating timescales during COVID, I suspect he may have finished writing this blog before I, as my employers scheduler, had finished our timetables for the 1st June uplift (the last of which were issued internally after 1600 yesterday) so the councils who update Traveline will not have seen many of them yet - and these may still be modified as there are ongoing discussions about enhancing capacity on certain corridors to aid social distancing. Whilst we have been looking at this for a week or more it was only over the weekend where clarification of funding etc has enabled plans to be finalised (all of ours were adjusted before I could start over the weekend from what was originally planned). Planning & implementation currently are measured in days not weeks so expecting anything to be up anywhere more than a couple of days is unreasonable & Traveline/Councils are at the end of the planning cycle not the start.

    1. Well said!

      As ever FBB is nicely insulated from the real world, a world where CBSSG-2 has been announced for commercial operators, but where DfT haven't told the local authorities what the arrangements are for tendered services. Or perhaps there aren't any?
      Maybe FBB would like a set of printed leaflets all reading "we don't yet know the timetable we'll be running, and even if we did, it'll probably change again very soon". Hardly helpful, but certainly accurate.

    2. I can concur with what Dwarfer 1979 says, as I'm on the other end of the process as a Traveline data coordinator. In my area (Traveline South West - Dorset) our processes rotate around a weekly data cycle whereby at 1700 each Tuesday we come off the system for an hour whilst the data harvest is run.This processes overnight and on Wednesday the data processor merges the data with that from South East, East Anglia, Tfl, East Midlands, Centro, West Midlands non Centro, National Coach Services Database, and National Rail, and the combined data set is released on Thursday mornings. We are fortunate in that all these areas are hosted in the Plymouth data centre so irrespective of which regional site you use you are looking at the same data. In addition we have been able to run a South West only second build later in the week, indeed one was run today (Thursday at 1400) which allows us to update South West data within the main data set, for Saturday morning.
      For service changes from 31st May I received a set of transXchange files from one operator for changes to 23 services which dropped in my inbox on Friday 22nd so I was able to process all these on Monday and Tuesday in time for the data build. This morning at 0910 Thursday 28th, another of my operators dropped 13 timetable changes on me for next Monday, all in paper form requiring a lot of manual input plus there were some correction TransXchange files from the previous operator. I must admit the 1400 deadline was tight but I got there.
      At the same time as doing this we are also implementing social distancing at Poole Bus Station which means alternate stands are out of use, and we have had to create new on street stops (new Naptan records, stop pole planting, removal of railings, changing traffic regulation orders to extinguish a bus lane for traffic to use whilst buses stop at the road side).
      Finally then a new Real Time data set has been generated so that on Monday when this all happens our shelter signs will be displaying the increased services correctly. Over the whole Covid-19 period, our Traveline and on street data has been updated before the changes, as has the data done by my colleagues throughout the south west area. I am fortunate to have an extremely good working relationship with all my operators who understand my deadlines and usually manage to get information to me in time, but with the government funding only being finalised last weekend this latest change has been somewhat manic.
      Ken Traveline Dorset

    3. I didn’t realise that the BUSES themselves had to be kept 2 meters apart from each other on the stands too!! Seems a bit OTT....?

  2. Ken - I don’t know how you do it. From one scheduler to another - well done! 😀

  3. Ken, you never cease to amaze. Your dedication to the task is admirable. You do an amazing job for your local area.