Monday 29th October
There’s something not quite right on the Cambridge Busway.
That’s apart from a driver shortage impacting the reliability of Stagecoach services.
I arrived at the Cambridge Station stop this morning for the 11.47 Route D which uses the Busway towards St Ives as part of a combined 15 minute frequency with Route A as shown on the timetable on the Stagecoach website.
Except the bus stop ‘real time sign’ showed a Route D departure at 11.51 (not 11.47) while the departure list in the shelter showed an 11.51 departure as Route A (not D) and the sign on the shelter showed Routes A and C (but no D) stop there even though C doesn’t.
Confused? I was. And even more so when I then spotted a timetable for Route A on the shelter showing only an hourly service.
Then the insecurity set in when 11.47 (and 11.51) came and went; the ‘real time display’ disappeared; and no bus had appeared.
Next the sign showed a Route A departing at 12.02 which at least married up with one of the timetable displays in the shelter and the website, so things were looking up.
Except 12.02 came and went, the display disappeared and still no bus.
Then we had a departure showing a Route A in ’13 mins’ indicating there’s a good chance this bus is actually coming (the one due at 12.17) and my assumption the previous displays had defaulted to timetabled scheduled time as no ‘real’ information had been received by the system. As both departures were obviously cancelled this is a particularly unsatisfactory way to communicate what is already an unsatisfactory situation! Open Data this is not.
No update information had been tweeted by Stagecoach East so at 12.06 I tweeted them to find out what was happening as my day’s travel plans were rapidly meaning Plan A bring aborted as well as the backstop Plan B and the backstop to the backstop Plan C.
As there wasn’t the courtesy of a reply and I detected understandable consternation among waiting passengers as we all watched frequent departures on smart Park & Ride buses from the same stop which only added to our frustrating wait, I tried another tweet at 12.17 as that departure wasn’t in sight.
in the event a rather full single deck finally arrived at 12.21 (the previous departure – if it ran – would have been at 11.32) and shortly after that Stagecoach East enquired if the bus had arrived.
As someone astutely observed; Twitter is supposed to work the other way around with bus companies providing the answers rather than asking the questions.
A couple of people kindly tweeted me letting me know about a useful app I could download showing the location of both Stagecoach and Whippet buses around Cambridge but as a non frequent visitor to the city there’s a limit to how many apps I want on my phone. I had been using the Stagecoach app too; but like the real time sign, it had defaulted to showing scheduled time for the cancelled buses on the ‘nearby buses’ screen which is particularly useless – that’s when I could get a good enough signal …..
Later in the day I arrived at Huntingdon station and was puzzled to see the same phenomenon with discrepancies between timetables on display there too.
The large display on the shelter shows departures on Route B to Cambridge at 01 and 31 minutes past the hour …..
while a smaller display on the bus stop shows departures at 08 and 38.
The real time display seemed to be agreeing with 01 and 31 which is also reaffirmed by the website.
I’m sure all of this can be explained by different publication dates and out of date information not being taken down but it does highlight how confusing it can be for passengers and emphasises the challenge ahead with grand plans for Open Data …. as well as confirmation that driver shortages are back with us again in some parts of the country (maybe pinch a driver off the frequent Park & Ride to avoid two consecutive buses on the A/D being cancelled?).
Roger French 29th October 2018
I used to run a bus company but in retirement enjoy Britain’s splendid scenic delights travelling by bus and train, and commenting along the way.