Thursday 10 September 2020

fbb Makes A Ghastly Mistake (4)

The good news for Sheffield folk is that many of their bus services have returned to pre-Virus frequencies - or nearly so. The 75 and 76 (Shiregreen "Circulars") have leapt from every 15 each to every 12 on Mondays to Fridays.

The helpful people at First South Yorkshire sent fbb a full set of the new timetables in spreadsheet format which makes it a doddle to get them thrust into the electronic innards of GoTimetable. There are a few problems that need "attention".

Because the files are derived from First's scheduling software, they often have lots of empty horizontal lines where timetable "oddities" appear, or have appeared in recent versions of the schedule. Here there is oodles of space for certain school trips which either no longer run or have been separated out as "closed" services, not available to the public.
A little activity with the electronic scissors is needed to remove the purposeless gaps.

So, just over a week before the change date, the new 75 and 76 are available. It is all very straightforward. Here is First Bus' version of 75 journeys from Jordanthorpe to Shiregreen and 76 journeys from Lowedges to Shiregreen.
And we all know, now, which way each one circles round the estate loop. The map tells us ...
... even if First's working timetable, exported to Travel South Yorkshire and thence to Traveline, doesn't make it clear.

On GoTimetable, fbb has always tried to help customers out by showing the loop; here are journeys towards city which "start" from Concord Park Gates ...
... at the Junction of  Bellhouse Road, Hatfield House Lane and Shiregreen Lane.
So it is clear that if you wanted to travel from Shiregeen to Jordanthorpe, you would be advised to catch a bus going down the hill and round the loop.

Likewise for journeys from City, times are given all the way round the loop.
The 0959/1001 is a service 76 which GoTimetable adds to the 75 table showing the common service from Woodseats to Firth Park; hence separate tables for the two services.
fbb is told by Sheffield users that it really does help.

So along comes the new 12 minute frequency and it appears tidy and straightforward ...
... with the proviso that it doesn't tell you which way the buses go and there are two Butterthwaite Roads, maybe signifying stops on both sides of the road. But the GoTimetable software plus fbb's tidying can cope.

But then the bombshell.
In the opposite direction we now have THREE Butterthwaite Roads, so probably not three sides of one road! 

But wait! Look at the 1342 and 1447 service 75 and ponder what "BR" might mean; Bellhoouse Road, obviously.

Definitions definition: IN means TO city; OUT means from City. Gottit?

But wait some more! The 75 runs OUT via Bellhouse Road an IN via Sicey Avenue and this is the "IN" timetable. The 76 runs IN via Bellhouse Road but the note says SA for Sicey Avenue.

But the 1502 and 1517 service 76s run IN via Bellhouse Road - CORRECT and the 1509 service 75 runs IN via Sicey Avenue - CORRECT.

Here's the map again ...
... an First's on-line PDF timetable showing the same anomaly ...
 ... but with unhelpful lines of blanks!

So fbb went through "correcting" all the errors!

The old man published his revision on GoTimetable and sent off an email to his contact at First to explain what was wrong and seek immediate redress.

Imagine the old man's aghastness when this reply arrived!.

Yes the 75 and 76 is a right dogs dinner. (redacted to protect jobs!)  I am unsure why three Bellhouse Roads are displayed like this and it will take some time for me to understand why it is doing it.

However back to the good old (well new actually) 75/76/76a

All journeys from BatemoorJordanthorpe on service 75 operate OUT via Bellhouse Road

All journeys from Lowedges on service 76/76a operate OUT via Sicey Avenue

Upon arrival at the top of Shiregreen (e.g. Concord Park Gates) the bus always completes the loop, but it will go down the hill (e.g. Bellhouse Road) showing the southern destination.

So going DOWN Bellhouse Road we might have
75 Jordanthorpe **
76 Lowedges

And climbing UP Bellhouse Road we might have
75 Jordanthorpe **
76 Lowedges

** To add to the fun, buses show Batemoor on the "blind" but go no further than Jordanthorpe in the timetable.

Complex I know but to a simple Shiregreen passenger they just stand at a bus stop and board the first bus that comes along – even it it displayed “Driver Under Instruction” on the front.

It depends on the cycle of the running time.

Parts of the day buses run Batemoor – Shiregreen – Lowedges

then other parts of the day buses run Batemoor – Shiregreen – Batemoor.

Hope this makes sense.

NOW it does - but originally it didn't. In order to cope with this "operational reason" for timetable incomprehension, fbb has had to merge 75 and 76 and reduce useful detail at the Shiregreen end.
Here are four journeys from the timetable data above.
And here is the southern end of each of the above.
So reading from right to left we have
76 loop at Shiregreen : 75 route to Jordanthorpe/Batemoor
75 loop at Shiregreen : 76 route to Lowedges
76 loop at Shiregreen : 76 route to Lowedges
75 loop at Shiregreen : 75 route to Jordanthiorpe/Batemoor

In a sense, Stuart is right. Shiregreen folk have long since abandoned any faith in bus timetables. Here is Google Streetview at the Beck Road stops (almost at the bottom of the hill!)
There is a little knot of people lurking by the streetlamp on the left. They are ready for the Shiregreen Shuffle. They are on the correct side of the road if a bus approaches round the corner from Sicey Avenue (the bottom bit) ...
... or, if a bus is heard approaching from Beck Road itself, they can sprint suicidally in front of the approaching vehicle and go the other way round the loop. In the aerial view below, Beck Road curves away off shot top right and Sicey Avenue runs horizontally across near the bottom of the picture. The stops on Beck Road are helpfully called Sicey Avenue.
Or, of course, you might be lucky and be able to nip round to the Shirehall Road stop on Sicey Avenue itself and catch a Stagecoach 88.
One of the big beefs in the year-long survey which has led to the so-called Mayor Dan Jarvis report on buses in Sheffield was that the timetables were too complicated and the buses too unreliable.

The 75/76 nonsense at Shiregreen may be "operationally prudent" but it is so complex that it shrieks unreliability even if it is running perfectly to time.

Add to this some simple little wrinkles like out-of-date information on Traveline, no printed material anywhere nor a simple way to download anything at home AND out of date information at bus stops and you have a perfect storm of a recipe to discourage passengers at every turn.

And that is before you add-in Virus vacillation!

fbb is appalled at his own incompetence (and sent himself to bed without any tea!) but everything in his body and brain pointed to normality. The last thing he expected, as First strives to rebuild its business, is a right dogs dinner of a service.

Beyond belief.

Tomorrow, we move to something more sensible.

A tweet from Roger French
Customer Service Travel South Yorkshire style!

Stop Press

New Managing Director for First Bus
10 Sep 2020

Giles Fearnley, First Bus Managing Director, has decided to retire after a long and successful career in public transport. He will be succeeded by Janette Bell who joins the Group in October.

Giles has been Managing Director of First Bus since February 2011. Since then, he has led a transformation of our customer offering including greater digitisation as well as investment in fleets and systems. In 2018, we became the first major operator to offer contactless payment on all our buses nationwide. Under Giles’s leadership the business also developed a strong approach to partnerships in the communities we serve, by working closely with local authorities and all our stakeholders to deliver thriving bus services that are vital to local prosperity and sustainable growth, through reducing congestion on the roads, improving air quality and helping to lower carbon emissions. In July this year, we announced our commitment to operate a zero-emission fleet by 2035 and do not plan to purchase any diesel buses after December 2022.
Janette was previously Chief Executive Officer of P&O Ferries. Having joined them in 2012 as Commercial Director, she was a key part of the executive team that devised and led a significant transformation of the business, including resetting the commercial agenda and delivering a profitable e-commerce strategy. She became CEO in 2018, and under her leadership the company delivered a significant change programme, establishing a new on-board proposition for customers, driving greater efficiencies and placing its first order for new ferries in over a decade. Most recently Janette led P&O Ferries through extensive preparations for the UK leaving the EU and its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 Brunel Boom Satsuma blog : Friday 11th Sept 


  1. Dog's Dinner? Surely you mean Dog's Breakfast?

  2. This is actually quite common, and fairly simple, the route number refers to the destination not the origin route. Outbound passengers wait at their normal stop and just board the first bus that comes along without really caring about the detail of the route number whereas going home, where there are often multiple routes serving the stop, they desire consistency in route number to know which bus to board. Thus it always makes more sense to have a consistent route number for each terminus even if that means inconsistency for the route number at each starting point on joint/interlinked services such as this.

  3. If we're going for accuracy, there's no stop called "Concord Park Gates".

  4. to Traveller : yes there is, fbb so named it on GoTimetable to overcome some of the unhelpful naming daftness withing the dreaded NaPTAN database. Sheffield folk will know where that it!

    to Dwarfer1979 - of course but the problem at Shiregreen is that there are always TWO stops on opposite sides of the road. Locals are used to taking the option of "the long way round" but this system is an unnecessary complication. Under the previous 15 minute frequency each circuit was "conventional". You discourage passengers if you run buses for the convenience of the scheduling computer!

    To anonymous : fbb is quoting!

  5. If 'protecting jobs' is really a priority for FBB perhaps it would have been more prudent not to have named his contact at First?

    1. He doesn't give a dam as long as he gets his information for his awful go timetable app.... Which Sicey Avenue isn't spelt correctly. He may need to start asking others for details in future. I bet the contact will not receive an apology.... Mr FBB is becoming across like an arrogant man who wants things done his way or not at all.

  6. So the picture of people hanging round lampposts is a sign of a badly designed timetable or is it just human nature to just catch the first bus that comes along? I used to travel to town R (I'll protect names unlike Mr FBB) from my village. Two buses operated to town R, one by F and one by S. At my nearest bus stop route F was on 1 side of the road and went to R via A. Route S was on the other side of the road and went to R via T. Both buses came within a few minutes of each other. Guess what.... People waited in between to see which came first. So nothing to do with pretty nice neat timetables, just getting on the 1st bus that came along.... Not rocket science