Friday, 2 April 2021

Tinkering Via Tinkers Bridge (5) ... Or

Demand Responsive : Decision Responsible?
Yesterday morning, many residents of Milton Keynes woke up to find that their bus service was no longer in operation.

It is not temporarily withdrawn due to Covid. It has passed on! This bus service is no more! It has ceased to be! It has expired and gone to meet the great Traffic Commissioner in the sky. It is defunct! Bereft of passengers, it rests in peace! If it were flesh and blood it would be pushing up the daisies! Its timetable processes are now history! It is off the map! It has kicked the bucket, It has shuffled off the tarmaced coil, shut down its engines and joined the bus spotters eternal notebook!! THIS IS AN EX-BUS SERVICE!!

Milton Keynes Council has ditched a dozen of its tendered bus routes and directed the bereft to MK Connect,

Let us see what the council's public transport web site (don't snigger at the back) tells us.
In amongst sections on Parking (of course), cycling (to be expected), road improvements (yipee) and drains (phew) we have this box to click.
So, yesterday morning, the first day that all this kicked off, fbb clicked.

From 31 March 2021, many of the supported bus services in Milton Keynes come to an end. In its place a new service knows as Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) will be available to bus users that don't have access to the weekday daytime routes.

DRT is not restricted to previous timetables or routes, and picks up passengers from their chosen destination to their required drop off point when they want to travel. MK Connect works like a minibus that comes when you want, where you want - book a ride straight from your phone, get picked up in minutes, and be dropped within a short walk of your destination.

Passengers with a wheelchair or disability will always be matched with a fully accessible vehicle and the service is accessible to passengers with vision, hearing and other requirements.

The service will operate from:

6:00am to 11:00pm Monday to Saturday

9:00am to 6:00pm on Sunday

DRT will be available by smartphone app, web or phone booking.  Just call for a vehicle a few minutes before you want to travel.

Concessionary passes under the ENCTS scheme will still be valid for free travel as it is on buses, as will the All-in-One £1 fare

The new ‘MK Connect’ service will be provided by Via.

Further information on the new service will be available soon, including information at bus stops and detailed usage guides on line.

No rush then! If you are clever enough, and if you know the right clicks to click, you might find your way to MK Connect.

This page tells you much the same thing.

MK Connect works like a minibus that comes when you want, where you want:

When you are ready to go, book a journey straight from your phone, tablet, computer, or by calling our contact centre. You’ll be picked up in minutes and dropped off steps from your destination. Once you enter your pickup and drop off addresses, we’ll provide you with a ‘virtual bus stop’ where you will meet your driver - usually a nearby corner 150-250 metres away. This helps minimise detours and keeps things moving quickly. You’ll also be able to follow your vehicle’s progress in real-time, so you know exactly when to meet your driver.

If there is an option to travel by a local scheduled bus, we will offer this option to you instead.

Passengers with a wheelchair or disability will always be matched with a fully accessible vehicle, and the service is accessible to passengers with vision and hearing impairments, as well as those with additional needs.

Ways to book.
Download the MK Connect app:
Use our web portal:
Give us a ring: 01908 252526.

So it is much the same as all the other App-based Demand Responsive services, most of which have failed or been closed down "because of Covid". 

Early publicity shows shiny black minibi ...
... but Roger French (who was riding dying bus routes and ViaVan minibuses yesterday, brave fellow) has snapped shiny white vehicles with the MKConnect logo.
Please feel free to read about Roger's experiences:-

There are several worries with this scheme.

1. The price. A single fare is £3.50 at peak times Monday to Friday, £2.50 off-peak and at weekends. £2.50 would be a bargain from Lavendon (map, upper right) to Lakes Estate ...
... (map bottom centre) but £7 return from Furzton to Bletchley Station for an onward commute is painful. There are no weekly or monthly seasons.

2. Pick-up and drop off could be up to one third of a mile from your front door. Sounds very much like walking to a bus stop!

3. At least one source suggests you may have to wait up to 30 minutes after booking, longer in more remote locations. Sounds like waiting for a bus!

4. You have to register and lodge your payment card with ViaVan - no cash fares. So occasional "emergency" trips for a stranded visitor are an utter faff!

5. You can book by phone; but Rog discovered that this is the Milton Keynes Council general enquiries number so (a) it may be very busy at times and (b) you have to listen to an eternal recorded message about Covid, etc. etc. Hardly slick!

6. As Roger discovered, there is an ambivalence about using your Old Crusty card. "Some authorities say ay, some say nay" restricting the offer to Milton Keynes local Old Crocks. Is that legal?

7. Despite restricting your travel to within 250 metres of your front door, this is a ride sharing service. It does mean that you could be trundled round quite a bit of unnecessary Milton Keynsian infrastructure. Quicker by bus?

Of course, for some this service will be the best thing since sliced bread. But for the majority of the suddenly dispossessed bus passengers (the old, the addled, or the can't be bothered with the hassle) Demand Responsive is just too complicated.

And there is not much room in the buses either! How does that tie up with the "threat of a third wave of mutated viri"?

Would MK's tendered services carry more passengers if they were better publicised? There is no printed material at all, no complete set of timetables on the "Transport Hub" and this is what Roger found at The Westcroft district centre.
There was a tatty map ...
... out of date even before yesterday's changes. It is an MK-wide offering, not specific to Westcroft and, anyway, the obligatory "Covid" poster covered up the Westcroft area completely!! There was a departure list (useless even if correct) certainly out of date from yesterday ...
... and a feeble notice listing the changes.
There was no information about Demand Responsive! Maybe the lads nipped round overnight to update it all for yesterday's big change? No, neither does fbb!

With publicity like this, it is no wonder that bus services are struggling and it is absolutely certain that MKConnect will do the same.

fbb expects that the App based MKConnect minibuses will die a slow and ignominious death and could well be gone well before fbb is!

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 3rd April 

Who's In Charge?

The Last Supper was held after sunset on Thursday and the schedule of the Jewish "day" defined Friday as starting at sunset on Thursday. So, correctly, Jesus and his chums ate the Passover meal on the eve of Passover Sabbath (Saturday) when such conviviality was not permitted.

Just listing the events of Good Friday leaves the observer breathless.

Last Supper
Judas leaves to do the betraying
Prayer in Gethsemane - Disciples fall asleep
Jesus arrested - tells his followers not to defend him
Condemned to death at an illegal "kangaroo court".
Peter denies that he ever know Jesus
The High Priests send Jesus to Pilate
Pilate finds nothing criminal
Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, the Jewish leader
Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate
Pilate tries to release Jesus
The crowd demands the release of criminal Barabbas
Pilate washes his hands of the affair
Crown of thorns forced on Jesus head
Jesus is crucified
The disciples run away, leaving a few women at the cross
Weird things happen in the sky and in the Temple
Jesus dies
The Roman guard says "truly he was the Son of God"
Joseph of Arimathea has the body put in his tomb
The tomb is sealed and guarded
The rituals of burial have to wait because
The Sabbath starts at sunset!

At no stage during this frenetic sequence of horrific, tragic and illegal activity did Jesus ever offer any defence or plea for mitigation. His only potentially provocative statement was to Pilate ...

"You have authority over me because it was given to you by God."

True? Think how easily it would be for an infinite God to step into "our" Universe and remove Jesus from the pain and humiliation of the crucifixion process. Jesus even prayed (in Gethsemane after the Passover Supper) that such a "deus ex machina" might be possible. 

"Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want but what you want."

For Jesus, it was "his purpose". The Passover "Lamb" had to shed his blood to save the people.

That is Easter.



  1. 1. ENCTS passes do not have to be accepted on services that require pre-booking. Saves the local transport authority shed loads of money. MK Council is perfectly entitled to improve on this, and appears to have done so by offering free travel to holders of cards it has issued. So far as I am aware, part of the serial number on the card denotes the issuing authority.
    2. MK's publicity was once rather good, with a widely-available free timetable book. But publicity alone cannot, as this series has described, overcome the inherent shortcomings in the local physical environment. Perhaps all MK has done is to accelerate the inevitable.
    3. They've also had the cheek to publish the official notice of their intention to introduce an Enhanced Partnership, just days before this slashing of the offer took place.

    1. The Enhanced Partnership thing is a Central Government requirement effectively. It appears that if councils don't begin the process to introduce an Enhanced Partnership (or franchising) in the next couple of months then other Central Government funding for commercial bus services (in particular the current emergency COVID support but potentially also normal Fuel Duty Rebate) will be withdrawn in that councils area. It doesn't matter how involved in public transport an authority is or whether they are investing in or cost cutting, if they don't do this then things will get a whole lot worse.

      You raise a major issue with these type of DRT scheme, you are replacing supported networks primarily used by concessionary pass holders with a service which has no legal requirement to accept such method of payment. The specific issue in MK is no one is clear on what is or isn't accept, the publicity says ENCTS passes are accepted with no exemptions which one response from the council agreed with whilst another response said only local MK passes were accepted. There is a lack of clarity.