Wednesday 26th August 2020
It’s been trailed on social media as making “it easier than ever to connect with the people and places that matter to you”. Arriva’smuch vaunted new website and app were launched yesterday.
It gets a one star rating from me, and that’s being generous. Bring back the previous website famed for its mediocrity and clunkiness. At least it wasn’t offering comlete gobbledygook. This new abomination is the most unfriendly public transport website I’ve ever come across. It’s clearly been designed and signed off by people who simply don’t use buses. What an extraordinary state of affairs for an international transport group proud of its origins apparerently dating back to 1938 (that Cowie owned second hand motor cycle shop opened in Sunderland).
I know my blogposts can be riddled with spelling mistakes from time to time, but it’s just me tapping away on my keyboard for a bit of fun, and I try and get posts out within a matter of hours of a visit, so sometimes they’re a bit rushed and written on a smartphone while on a train or bus with a poor signal (that’s my excuse anyway). But to have spelling and grammatical mistakes in a website which has presumably been a long time in the making and subject to proof reading and checking many times over by professionals is inexcusable.
Take a read of this extract telling you all about the exciting new website, which doesn’t seem to know the difference between “you” and “your”:
But that’s just detail. What about the fundamentals? For me, a bus company website needs to have the basics of easy access to a timetable, a map and ticket prices. A journey planner is helpful but not essential.
Let’s take those in turn.
There’s a tab headed ‘Services and timetables’. This brings up a sub menu.
Click on ‘Download timetables’ and you get a quite mind boggling listing of every bus route Arriva operates in route number order – except not route number order as you and I would understand – no, this is route number order as though we are computer language geeks.
So after a listing of eighteen route 1s from across the country, next comes seven route 10s, followed by three route 100s , seven route 101s and so on. It’s not until you click on tab 2 (of 8) at the bottom of the listing …
…. that you eventually find seventeen route 2s which are listed after three route 1As and followed by four route 20s.
This is just simply the most bonkers thing I have ever seen. Whoever signed this off needs to consider their position. They’re clearly in the wrong job.
But, it gets worse. Click on a route number and the pdf of the timetable that fills your sceeen is as inexplicably bonkers as the route listing.
Timetables are only shown strictly according to the route number you’ve picked. So, for example, if you click on route 1 Chesham and High Wycombe, this shows only those journeys numbered as route 1 with departures from Chesham Broadway at 06:05 through to 08:31 then nothing until 15:06 and then departures through until 21:15. Every stop is listed for good measure too, making for a long listing.
You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no off peak service. But, of course for that, you have to know to click on route 1A (listed a long way from route 1 – see above) which also lists peak time journeys as well as all the daytime journeys every half an hour, as they’re 1A rather than 1. Anyone who knows anything about buses and timetables would have immediately spotted the need to combine the 1 and 1A timetable into one presentation. This is pretty basic, kindergarten stuff. All the more so, as in the opposite direction buses heading towards Chesham in the off-peak every half an hour are numbered 1 and not 1A, so the opposite holds true.
Even worse, the timetable is incomplete as it only shows half the service, the other half of this integrated ‘partnership’ operated route is run by Carousel Buses providing a 15 minute frequency combined. But you’d never know from this presentation. (Carousel provide a combined integrated timetable as does Buckinghamshire County Council).
I could go on with more and more examples of complete rubbish being displayed on this so called “exciting” new website, but here’s just one more crazy, barmy soupçon of what you’ll find.
Some timetables, if they have different journey patterns in the evening or at weekends have a nonsensical presentation. For example, take the very first route listed – route 1 Blyth to Widdrington Station.
First comes a block showing a single journey from Blyth to Ashington at 18:18 headed ‘Monday-Sunday’ (Why not ‘Daily’?) – with a note ‘Only during Bank Holidays’. What on earth does that mean? That journey only runs on Bank Holidays or not on Sundays?
As you can see above, the next block is headed ‘Monday-Saturday – towards Blyth Bus Station’ showing journeys from 08:35 to 23:13 – all headed with the code 1 which presumably still refers to “Only during Bank Holidays” whatever that does mean. Then comes a Monday- Saturday block in the other direction.
Then, inexplicably you get two blocks headed ‘Monday-Friday’ which list journeys not included in the Monday-Saturday blocks. So for example, daytime departures from Blyth at 08 and 48 are shown under Monday-Saturday, but the 28 departure is shown under Monday-Friday. So to realise there’s a 20 minute frequency on a Monday to Friday, you have to read across the two separate blocks.
But then it’s followed by a Saturday block which lists those journeys which only run on a Saturday which include departures from Blyth at 28 minutes past the hour, so goodness knows why they weren’t included in the Monday-Saturday block. (I haven’t included every page here but hopefully there’s enough to give you an idea of the nonsensical nature of the presentation – even better, click on this link and click on the top entry ‘1 from Blyth Bus Station to Widdrington Station Turning circle’ and just for fun scroll down through all the pages.)
Then finally there’s a Sunday block. Which, just for confusion also shows every journey as ‘Only During Bank Holidays’ too.
It really is complete rubbish and reflects relying on a computer database rather than employing a human being to make some sense of what’s being shown.
Let’s move on to maps.
Now here’s some positive news. There are some decent route and network maps available on the website. But the bad news is they’re not easy to find. You have to click on the tab marked ‘Locations’ which brings up the old Arriva regions …
…on which a further click brings up “Popular places” in each region, with three highlighted places and pretty photos and an option of selecting from a drop down menu of many more places.
This brings up a selection of “Bus services in ….” and the words “Below are some of our more popular routes ….” which is a bit odd when in some areas only one (or two) route/s are listed as popular! For example, Chesham – the infamous 1 and 1A are listed along with a description of the delights to be found in Chesham as happens with each location – and which pretty much read the same for every place, other than the detail of theatre names being different.
But, if relevant maps are available for the particular area, then they appear below that under a heading called “Zone maps” and some of them are very useful showing route numbers and colour coded too.
And some of them are not so useful, showing no route numbers.
Clicking on Tickets brings up a sub menu and to find out the price of a ticket you have to click on ‘Buy tickets’ which brings up the regional sub menu and then a more detailed listing of the full range of tickets by location.
This provides a useful guide to what tickets are available in each area together with a blue spurge on a Google map indicating the rough zonal boundary with a downloadable pdf which gives a bit more detail.
It’s a pity this useful information isn’t made more accessible rather than expecting customers to commit to a ‘Buy tickets’ tab before being able to find out information on prices. Why not call the tab ‘Ticket prices’?
The Latest News tab takes you to a page showing snippets of news ranging from a “Road closure in Mill Hill Lane, Derby” through a “Diversion on Service 321” (which one?) to “Service changes in the Wakefield area”. There is an ability to use a drop down menu to select a particular Arriva region to sift through all this news for relevance, but even so, those regions are rather large – eg North East or Wales for my local news relevant to my bus route.
Finally the Journey Planner, which all good techy people hold so much sway over. takes prominent place at the head of the website on the home page. It’s one of those drop down menu type affairs where you have to find your particular stop from a detailed listing. And the big drawback is, rather than use the Traveline database, it only uses Arriva’s database of services.
So you get the crazy situation of, for example, noting under Locations – Maidstone – it encourages you “to venture to Leeds Castle”….
…so put in Maidstone in the drop down box for ‘Origin’ in the Journey Planner, and be skilled enough to scroll down the list of 20 options to reach Chequers Bus Station …
… then enter Leeds Castle as your destination for which you have to scroll down the list of 20 options for Leeds (that’s Leeds, West Yorkshire of course)….
…. so type in Leeds Castle only to find it isn’t listed ….
…. as Arriva don’t operate there. Nu Venture does. So tough. It may have those “stunning landscaped grounds” but Arriva aren’t going to help you find out how to “venture there”, even though they tempt you to visit!
And that just about sums up the new Arriva website.
From mediocrity to useless.
Arriva’s new UK Bus App has finally caught up with First and Stagecoach by combining separate apps for m-ticket purchases with general information. You have to create a new account and password – and take care to download the correct version as the App store yesterday was still showing the old app being available.
I haven’t been out and about yet to test the app on the streets but it’s good to see the live map is still available showing where every Arriva bus is nationwide (I like that) and I notice for route timetables there’s a handy map for each route before you click on ‘pdf timetable’ which takes you to the monstrosity of a timetable presentation described above.
Although there is one redeeming feature in that it does provide a link to “Related services” – see above for the 1 and 1A example in Buckinghamshire.
I noticed there’s an Arriva Help Portal which has a sub menu of “Select a region” – but these are the newer Arriva style regions following the Group’s last management reorganisation – you’d have to really be in the know if you lived in Milton Keynes to realise you come under the same region as Oswestry (ie Midlands) and not Southern Counties – and Oswestry is not North West and Wales.
The Help Portal has twenty-five pages of questions to wade through – although there is a search function which narrows it down a bit if you type in a relevant word.
Just don’t ask which bus goes to Leeds Castle.
“Easier than ever to connect with the people and places that matter to you?” You’ve got to be joking.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.