Monday, 8 March 2021

It's All On Line - Episode 537

Dateline Tuesday 2nd March

Occasional correspondent Jordan is a volunteer tram driver at Blackpool and Crich, but to earn his crust he is a shift supervisor at Krispy Kreme at Meadowhell shopping centre, Sheffield. fbb once bought a Krispy Kreme doughnut (maybe it was a donut?) at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. 
It had Dayglo pink icing so bright that fbb had to shield his eyes when consuming the delectable bun. It had pink jam inside; and overall tasted pink - a gustation sensation suitable for celebration or jubilation but bringing consternation to fbb's companion and consolation for the subsequent eructation as he consumed it very quickly whilst running for a Heathrow Express train.

The Heathrow Express was available for travel at normal fares instead of rip-off because the Piccadilly Line was busted! Hence the reason for the visit. For the record the train was 15 minutes late into  Paddington on a 15 minute running time; giving a whole new meaning to the word "Express"!!

But we digress.

As Jordan was commuting to his emporium of sugary deliciousness (?) he spied a yellow update notice in the timetable frame at Meadowhell interchange. At first excited to see what was changing for his diurnal and dutiful commute ...

Jordan was disappointed to see that it referred to a change way back in 2020! There was another timetable change in January 2021 ...
... not mentioned in the frame.

And unbeknown to Jordan - indeed unbeknown to anyone in Sheffield it seems - another unreported change was due today. Even more galling is that as Jordan was reading the useless notice on Tuesday 2nd March, First bus was making an announcement to nobody in particular of things to come.

Dateline Thursday 4th March
Many years ago, fbb registered for on-line updates from First in Stoke on Trent and since South Yorkshire joined the mega-wodge of "Midland" companies, the occasional message pops into the old man's in-box.

This was scary. Would your noble timetable updater be able to get these changes on to the GoTimetable Sheffield database in time. And how massive were the changes from yesterday, the 7th March?

Delving more deeply into First's over-engineered web site, fbb found these words of "wisdom".

We’re making some changes to our services from Sunday 7th March to provide more capacity for students making essential journeys to and from school.

On Sundays?

All services we operate alongside Stagecoach, 8, 24, 52a, 83 and 120 will remain unchanged.

So school kiddies don't travel on these routes?

The dedicated school services we operated before the new lockdown restrictions were imposed will be re-introduced, visit our schools page for more information > > >

Most of our other services will have revised timetables. You can view them on our forthcoming timetables page here > > > 

So we have to search through the whole caboodle?

these timetables are the same ones that were in operation before the new lockdown restrictions, so any previous journeys for schools are maintained. 

Could it be that, what is ACTUALLY happening is that timetables are reverting to the pre January 25th schedules when Saturday timing (plus extras) were brought in on Monday to Friday? Might it ACTUALLY be a simple as that?

Next area of search is a full list of every service operated by First in South Yorkshire - so we cast our weary eye over this list to see what is happening in Sheffield. Here is X1 and X10., for example.

X1 Sheffield - Meadowhall - Rotherham - Wickersley - Maltby
This service will run every 20 mins

X10 Meadowhall - Rotherham - Wickersley - Flanderwell - Maltby
This service will run every 30 mins 
(extra journeys combine with the X1 service 
to run every 10 mins from Meadowhall - Bramley)

This makes no sense whatsoever compared with the complicated published timetable. During the middle part of the day (off peak, but VERY off peak) here is the pattern.
There are THREE buses an hour from Moorfoot, one of which is an X10; they are joined by a further three buses an hour from Meadowhell, one of which is an X10. Buses then run every ten minutes to Maltby (further than Bramley!) but via the two different routes.
The only thing that changes from today is, POSSIBLY, a few peak hour timings Monday to Friday.

If that is too fraught for your lockeddown and addled mind, let's try an easier one.

8 Ecclesfield - Sheffield - Birley - Crystal Peaks
8a Ecclesfield - Sheffield - Birley - Crystal Peaks
This service will run every 30 minutes combined (8/8a)

Correct. And this isn't changing at all; we have already been told that it runs "alongside" Stagecoach service 7 from Manor Top to to Wordsworth Avenue.

It's a joint service, innit!

Presumably Stagecoach don't want to change their bit, so First cannot change its share. Such is the joy of partnership.
But as it isn't changing from today, why is it in a list of changes?

11 Chapeltown - Sheffield - Herdings
11a Chapeltown - Sheffield - Herdings
This service will run combined (11/11a) 
to Chapeltown End every 15 mins, 
and to Herdings every 7 mins

More confusing nonsense.

Between Sheffield and Herdings, the 11 and 11a are totally different routes. For most of the day 11a runs between Sheffield and Herdings only, not venturing cross city at all.
So, yes, there is a bus to Herdings every 7/8 minutes but via different and unconnected routes and, yes, at odd times of day there are buses which run between Herdings and Chapeltown via the 11 route but starting as an 11a "for operational reasons"; but designed to confuse the public - which the timetable does with consummate ease!
But, again, the changes from today apply to a few journeys at peak times only.

The whole thing from First is expertly designed to befuddle the already befuddled bus user with unnecessary information overkill.

First have posted very general notices on the buses, but nothing that gives you and real information worth having.

Here is a comment from Sheffield correspondent Jordan, he of Krispy Kreme fame.

Dateline Sunday 7th March

Notices on First buses plus their various social media platforms 

However at 1530 hours on the 7th March the head of queue departure lists at the Interchange were showing the January times. This was, at least, better than the main lockdown when there was no information at all at the Interchange.

Also yesterday, fbb decided to check what the PTE (a k a Travel South Yorkshire) was saying about the changes from today.

On the home page:-

On the "Virus" page:-
The offer a click to "Service changes" but with no explanation that anything is any different from the last time you looked, clicked and gave up, confused!

But, if you dare to have clicked, there IS information - TWICE.

Changes to bus, tram and train services in South Yorkshire
Last updated on 03 March 2021.

From Monday 8 March, some bus services in South Yorkshire will change, due to schools returning.

Timetables and details are available below.

Bus Service Changes

Tram/Tram Train Service Changes 

Rail Service Changes

Keep up to date

Bus service changes

From Monday 8 March, some bus services in South Yorkshire will change, due to schools returning. Changes are listed in the tables on this page.

Shouldn't the fact that there are timetable changes be a big bold headline on ALL websites?

At least the PTE seems to have grasped that the changes apply from today, NOT yesterday as suggested by First. But, like First, they don't tell you what the changes are.

Possibly because they don't KNOW what the changes are - they are just passing on First's revised timetables. By not explaining, at least they don't add to the confusion.

And they do show CLEARLY where a new timetable starts today.
So all the user has to do is to compare old and new and work out whether his/her journey is still there or isn't. Very convenient. Helpful customer service in difficult times. NOT!!

The PTE set is not reliable, however. Here is their panel for the X74:-
Here is the "new" X74 timetable:-
And here is the old X74:-
Spot the difference!

Note X on the GoTimetable extract reads; "continues to Rotherham via Magna Templeborough and Ickles."

Yet again, the poor people of Sheffield are being misinformed and left thoroughly confused.

We cannot be in the slightest bit surprised that passenger numbers have continued to decline, even before the current crisis and so the post-viral future must look very bleak indeed.

Will Stagecoach, First and/or the PTE be already planning a massive publicity campaign for post lockdown?


But, never mind, 


Such a comfort!

 Next Variety Blog : Tuesday 9th March 


  1. Andrew Kleissner8 March 2021 at 14:02

    Fbb - the fault is NOT that's "it's all on line". The fault is with whoever it is that is supposed to be designing the websites, passing on information or updating the webpages.

    If print timetables didn't appear on time or were inaccurate because the people producing them hadn't done their jobs properly, you wouldn't say, "See, that's why one shouldn't rely on printed material". No; you'd find out what had gone wrong and take steps to remedy it for the next time.

    It's not the media format that's the problem - and these days "online" is the way to go for the vast majority of people as (a) Google or whatever is their natural first port of call for information; (b) how are they to get hold of printed materials, especially with Libraries and TECs closed? and (c) "online" is - or should be - far more responsive and flexible to short-notice alterations.

    The fact that some websites are clearly incomprehensible lies elsewhere, perhaps deep within the convoluted nature of our public transport system with (it seems) few people knowing "whose" job it is to do "what", especially when it comes to presenting information across several operators and/or areas.

  2. Entirely agree it shouldn't be a battle of printed material vs online - it should be both and both should be accurate, accessible and attractive... But if I had to chose one, then accurate online content would be my number one priority.

    I remember the "olden days" where notification of timetable changes sometimes* comprised nothing more than a poster on the cab bulkhead that either said there were changes happening, but referred you to an enquiry office (only in the main town and only when open) or provided a list of text too small to read unless you were sat in a seat immediately adjacent and usually obscured by other passengers.

    * Oft enough you found out the timetable had changed when your bus didn't turn up!