Printed matters

Thursday 28th April 2022

I had an enjoyable evening last Saturday at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley (Tony Blackburn’s Radio 2 Sounds of the Sixties Tour since you asked – highly recommended for those of us of a certain age).

Whilst there I couldn’t help but notice in the foyer and throughout the theatre were racks holding copies of a booklet giving details of all the up and coming productions. Many people were picking a copy up as they arrived or in the interval and taking a look at what might take their fancy for an evening’s entertainment in the future. As well as information about who’s performing there were details of dates, start times and prices for different seats in the auditorium. What a very useful booklet.

I wonder why The Hawth produce it though? All the same information is available online on their website. They could save money and help their environmental credentials by ceasing the production of printed booklets like this, just like some bus companies and almost all train companies are now doing – you know the ones, generally speaking, those struggling to attract passengers at the moment, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

My local Indian restaurant in Hassocks with a fine cuisine reputation produces a very informative printed menu from which you can see the full range of dishes they produce and order takeaways. From time to time these are delivered around the area as well as being available to pick up from the restaurant. It has all the prices clearly shown and is a very useful publication.

I wonder why they produce it though? All the same information is available online on their website. They could save money and help their environmental credentials by ceasing the production of printed leaflets like this, just like some bus companies and almost all train companies are now doing – you know the ones, generally speaking, those struggling to attract passengers at the moment, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

Every Tuesday my Royal Mail postie delivers next week’s Radio Times through my letterbox as I take out a subscription to this magazine. It lists every television and radio programme showing details of the channel and start times as well as what the programme is about and who is starring in it. It’s a very useful publication.

It sells just under half a million copies every week at a retail price of £3.50. Next year it celebrates its centenary. It’s one of a number of listing magazines on the market which together sell over 2.5 million copies weekly. TV Choice is the most popular selling magazine in the UK, followed by What’s On TV with the Radio Times in third place.

I wonder why the magazine publishers produce these though? All the same information is available online on websites, on apps or on television screens. The publishers could help their environmental credentials by ceasing the production of printed magazines like this, just like some bus companies and almost all train companies are now doing – you know the ones, generally speaking, those struggling to attract passengers at the moment, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

It’s not all train companies though. Northern have been producing a wonderful timetable booklet showing details of train times, as well as some details about bus times, in Cumbria and the Lake District as well as parts of the Dales and Fells. It’s aim is to encourage passengers to travel by train.

It’s a very useful booklet including information across eight pages about Rover tickets complete with maps to encourage travel on the network.

The good news is it’s being produced again this summer and as a bonus for multi-modal fans includes ten pages of bus timetables too – Stagecoach’s bus routes 555, 559, X4, X5 and X6 will all be there. How useful is that for visitors and tourists to these popular areas? Very. It’s a very useful publication.

I wonder why Northern produce it though? All the same information is available online on their (and Stagecoach’s) website. They could save money and help their environmental credentials by ceasing the production of printed booklets like this, just like some bus companies and almost all other train companies are now doing – you know the ones, generally speaking, those struggling to attract passengers at the moment, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

Believe it or not some bus companies continue to produce printed booklets, pamphlets and leaflets giving details of the bus routes they run as well as including maps, timetables and even prices of tickets. It’s strange that these are usually the bus companies doing well to attract passengers on to their buses and areas like Cornwall, the Lake District, areas served by bus companies like Transdev Blazefield, Go North East, Go South Coast, Safeguard, Grant Palmer, Lynx, Ensignbus and many more are seeing the benefit of making it easy for potential (as well as existing) passengers to find out what’s on offer.

Some bus companies even leave printed timetables on display for passengers to pick up.
Some bus companies even put printed timetables inside buses for passengers to pick up.
Some bus companies even leave printed timetables on bus seats for passengers to pick up.

All this information is available on line on their websites but these companies seem to hold the view it’s a good idea to make printed information available too, despite the cost of this and the damage it causes the environment to use paper as explained by certain other bus companies justifying why they don’t produce printed material.

Train companies, which aren’t exactly renowned for being in the vanguard of knowing how to attract passengers on to trains with excellence in information provision despite “our passengers are at the heart of everything we do” being their mantra, are taking this approach to a whole new level if the Department for Transport agrees to their latest proposal.

The Rail Delivery Group has put out a “Staff Brief” explaining the rationale behind making the temporary derogation to not produce paper timetables a permanent feature of our railways. What a very sensible move, after all, we don’t want to make it easy for potential passengers do we?

And have no fear because as you’ll see RDG’s “Redress and Support Group” are working on communications on the “customer narrative for complaints” about such a move.

So that’s all good.

It’s interesting to see the results of a customer survey conducted by one of the UK’s most successful bus companies last month. It found 73% of passengers “liked using paper timetables“.

I doubt the RDG and those bus companies now wedded to the “it’s all online” mantra will take note though.

I should clarify I’m not saying don’t put everything online. The Internet has obviously absolutely revolutionised the availability of information, not least about bus and rail routes, timetables and ticket prices making for easy planning of journeys and buying tickets in advance – albeit some websites (eg Arriva, Stagecoach, TfL and some train companies still leave a lot to be desired in making it easy to find information as well as notable gaps in provision, particularly maps) – BUT there’s a vital place for printed information as well. You wouldn’t run a bus with three wheels or a train with a missing bogey – operators shouldn’t run their information provision with a vital piece missing either.

One final thought. If everything is online and few people want information in printed form as the RDG and some bus companies would have us believe, how come there’s a never ending variety of magazines for sale in W H Smiths (and other retailers)?

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS.

97 thoughts on “Printed matters

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  1. WH SMITHS have closed in West Bromwich and Dudley & downsized in Brum City Centre this to me would indicate a reduction in print media while our two evening newspapers Birmingham Mail & Express & Star are in terminal decline. The indication that the Argos catalogue is no more confirms this. Personally I order everything from McDonald’s off my app & constantly use the Just Eat app to while haven’t been in a shop since February 2020 & order everything off my smartphone & I am 54. All bus station enquiry offices in the West Midlands closed last year. The demand for printed material from TfWM is simply not there anymore. Printed timetables are available on request from Customer Information Points and operators must continue to provide on request material in other forms for those who need it but I simply cannot see any future long term for printed bus timetables to me they are only loved by armchair bus enthusiasts who constantly dream of an era of the bus industry that is long gone and never actually use buses themselves. Those that actually use buses in the real world in the West Midlands find timetables at every stop and maps and signage at all major Interchanges for what it’s worth I also take the RadioTimes on subscription but mainly watch TV programmes streamed online the RadioTimes is purely for the articles and daily Sky Sports planner & for my 87 year to find what rubbish is on daytime television; only the brain dead surely must watch all those Flog It reruns; for when the snooker & horse racing is not on ironically I never use the magazine for looking actually at the radio times!

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    1. Do West Mids really post bus timetables on bus stops ? – I very much doubt it, there may be departure lists, but that is a very different thing to a timetable. With frequent services that maybe good enough, but if you are catching an infrequent service or one with lots of variations, how do you know if you can get back again ??

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  2. Point made! – let’s hope that the bus and rail companies who are struggling to attract passengers (sorry, customers) will read this online blog – without you having to go to the lengths of having it printed!

    Keep up the good work…

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    1. If you know the area and know the bus routes then you probably do not need printed timetables and maps. If you are a visitor or tourists to am area then you certainly needs maps and timetables by not providing then the bus companies are ignoring a part of the market. If you make it difficult to use buses people will simply not use them. With Covid having caused more people to holiday in the UK it is a market that bus companies should not ignore, It is even dafter when computers make it much easier and cheap to produce printed material, This material is also a form of advertising for the bus companies

      You need to take into account as well that a lot of the bus web sites are not particularly well desired and can make finding information quite difficult. It is common with these Web site that you need to know exactly what you want before you can find it

      Yes the information can be there but they make hard work of letting you try to find it

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      1. I live in a rough working class area and every one of my neighbours who in thier 70s have a Smartphone they use while everyone of my neighbours in thier 80s have a Nokia 100 it’s clear the vast majority of those over pensionable age and under 80 are quite happy with some form of technology for what it’s worth my mum who would now be 85 loved her Amstrad Emailer I bought her from Argos which replaced thier house phone which mum used for emailing and texting as it was so easy to use.

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  3. I agree with providing printed material. But I’m going to upset everybody, by looking for the underlying point.

    With the exception of the Mets, it’s leisure business that keeps buses alive. That’s why passes and ad hoc injections of government cash remain essential life support. It’s also what eating out, the Radio Times and theatres have in common with buses. However valuable to their enthusiasts, and no one doubts their enthusiasm, they aren’t one of life’s essentials. Sorry if I’ve just destroyed your raison d’être.

    The problem is what we do about buses without tourist potential. Nothing, it seems. They’re a lost cause, apart from another way of throwing money down the drain. Perhaps Thatcher and Ridley weren’t so wrong after all?

    I don’t doubt that bus operators feel a duty to the whole community and all their passengers. It’s the public service ethos legacy, even if honoured more in the breach. Understandably. That’s British. But perhaps they shouldn’t?

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    1. I agree that if the information on the web site is up to date and easy to find, then the case for printed material is decreased. But how many companies have web sites that conform to those simple requirements ???

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  4. One point about printed material is that it can’t respond to route or time changes. No point in producing a booklet if some of the information is already out of date by the time it’s printed and distributed, unless you do a “general” booklet with duplicated inserts. Of course, if you only make changes on (say) two specified dates a year, or can note when they’re coming, your problem is solved. Certainly here in Cardiff we have had quite a lot of short-notice changes due to major construction works in the city centre.

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      1. National Express West Midlands are pretty good at keep their website up to date however the gold standard is set by Diamond Buses whose website is simply the best in the bus industry.

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  5. It is odd how some companies within the same organisation differ so wildly in their approach to publicity, which as is pointed out, no other organisations known to man are so shy about “selling” their products. Brimming timetable racks of Stagecoach services in Mansfield bus station (Stagecoach East Midlands), but a total absence up the road in Chesterfield bus station (Stagecoach Yorkshire) are just one of many examples.

    It is understandable at the moment, or at least in the recent past with Covid, as frequent service changes would have made most timetables useless before they hit said racks, but is it not a requirement shortly to provide “printed publicity” within the Buses bill? I sincerely hope so, and if companies really do feel it is a waste of time bothering to try and sell their services, at least produce a MAP so we can what goes where!!!. Even Trent Barton finally did this a couple of years ago after about a thirty year absence, but few others bother.

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    1. Unfortunately Stagecoach East Midlands can’t be bothered to make their timetable leaflets available in their head office city of Lincoln, for all they manage it in Mansfield.

      I suspect Mansfield gets leaflets racked because one member of Stagecoach staff there has taken it upon themselves to make sure leaflets are available, whereas nobody at Lincoln can be bothered. The excuse will doubtless be that Lincoln bus station is owned by the local council, but so is Mansfield’s – and Stagecoach’s controllers are based in Lincoln bus station, so I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to rack the leaflets as used to happen when Lincoln’s new central bus station first opened.

      Stagecoach EM *are* extolling the delights of the Nottingham – Mansfield – Chesterfield “Pronto” route (the erstwhile 63) to Lincoln residents, although it’s only because they’ve transferred a number of purple Pronto-branded double-deckers from Mansfield to Lincoln!

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  6. Bravo Roger!

    I’ve printed off a copy of your excellent blog as I find it easier on the eye to read and I can keep it handy should I need to read it again.

    Those who follow the ‘it’s all on line’ mantra should get out more, and visit those sensible operators who provide printed matter. They will be able to see how many of their customers use it – I’ve witnessed lots of occasions where a leaflet is being studied. It’s easier than fiddling to fit today’s digitally produced nonsense on a mobile phone screen.

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  7. I wonder if Northern’s excellent publication took its inspiration from Stagecoach’s equally impressive “Lakes by Bus” Guide? (copy available on their website although printed copies are widely distributed). Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancs has also restarted printing timetables for its other services, although distribution of these is a bit more patchy, not helped by the closure of its Travel Shops.

    James Davies Lancaster Bus Users Group 98 Dorrington Road LANCASTER LA1 4TD 01524 298680 07581 486361

    >

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  8. First Essex have just produced a timetable booklet for their Chelmsford Shuttle services, and presumably for Basildon and Colchester too.

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  9. Was the RDG’s Staff Brief printed on paper to be posted in mess rooms etc, or only available on line (if you know where to look)?

    Also, bus running days offer timetable booklets so visitors can plan their day out. What’s the difference between these and normal stage routes? Paper timetables are so much easier to plot routes and cross-reference where and when to change buses than any only app.

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    1. I’ve not seen a printed copy at any of the locations I work into.

      I suspect it’s one of those lovely not-at-all-secret railway documents which are only made available to people in the know, which rarely includes those actually who need to know (let alone those for whom it would be nice to know).

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    1. In an interesting development West Midlands Travel Limited have been awarded an emergency tender by Worcestershire County Council to operate a service between Bromsgrove, Catshill, Lydiate Ash , Rubery & Longbridge from Tuesday 3rd May 2022. Not sure if a printed timetable will be available beforehand.

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      1. I assume that’s a partial replacement for the 144?

        It’s a while since WMT has been to Bromsgrove, I think; I recall they had the tenders for the 145 and 202 after deregulation, but I don’t know if they’ve been since.

        I have a vague feeling they also had the tenders for the 318 and 334 at the same time, but I’m probably wrong. It was quite a long time ago!

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  10. The key point which nearly every operator seems to miss when pushing online-only ‘journey planner’ type information is that not everyone knows when and where they want to travel. The assumption that they do is both inaccurate and patronising. It leaves no scope for exploration, ‘what if’ planning, disseminating useful general travel information to third parties, or using one’s existing navigation skills, and merely serves to dumb down, remove useful skills, and make people blind to what the operator actually provides.

    If only all operators could be made to understand this and provide information in multiple formats – it doesn’t necessarily have to be printed; my plea is merely for maps and full timetables (including for rail engineering works and bus diversions), alongside journey planners. As long as everything has a date on it and relevant notes about likely validity, people can work it out!

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    1. That really is the key point. We need to try and make using the bus a tolerable, even if not pleasant, experience. It’s hard enough, without making it even harder. It’s not just about preaching to the converted. Too often, it’s better to travel by anything, bar by bus. There’s a lot (most perhaps) that we can do little or nothing about, but where we can…

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  11. Oh, how I agree with all of this! It’s useful to have timetables available online, but for the wider picture there is no substitute for a printed version. And of course a network map, something else which seems almost to have died the death on both bus and rail.

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  12. I’m not so sure about the future of printed matter however, if it is down to cost (after all the DfT are paying) why not make it pay? In the early days of Community Rail, many partnerships were strapped for revenue schemes (capital-rich -revenue poor) so to produce printed information like line guides they sought third party advertising and it is this that pays for the majority of publications these days. Why not seek out business sponsorship? after all, wouldn’t this tick ISO 9001 for any business and contribute to their CSR? Is the RDG too lazy to seek out new income and boldly go where no TOC has gone before? It is an age thing as well, it’s alright saying that bus companies provide printed items, but then again what is the age profile of the majority of their customers given the extensive use of ENC passes?
    It is this generation which is passing on and there are now many silver surfers out there who have grown with this technology and are becoming more familiar with it. I do think printed timetables will die out just like the GBTT; ABC, and Bradshaws have. I do think the RDG is missing a trick, as one thing I did when involved in promoting public transport was to put QR codes on all bus stops and rail stations County Wide which when scanned on your mobile phone gave options on real time running information and the ability to download the timetable to your mobile even at locations served by more than one operator: A sample QR code url could be this: https://www.fablive.co.uk/index.php?page=services_at_station&crs=vic printed and placed on station departure posters.

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      1. The QR codes are found at most TfWM shelters within the West Midlands County have Swift Collectors .

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      2. The QR codes are found in the Swift Collectors found at most TfWM Bus Shelters across the West Midlands County.

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      3. Interesting to hear at why they are not being produced from the Swift Collectors let me know what area you are referring to and I will investigate this further.

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      4. You say it just at Swift Collector bus shelters? I’m talking about at all stops, I’d have thought it would be rolled out to all stops not just specific ones.

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      5. Perhaps later it will be rolled out universally who knows but at present its only at stops with a Swift Collector.

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      6. Bob, we only targeted specific stops out of the 3,000+ in Norfolk as being a rural area there are locations with no mobile or data coverage and some stops see less than 3 people a month, so you do need to check where it is most likely to be used!

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      7. No mate a valid point I will find out why its only at the Swift Reader stops and if its being rolled out further thank you for your comments I hadn’t thought to ask previously

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  13. The Great British Bus Survey 2021 (Twitter @GB_Bus_Survey) found that 88% of respondents disagree or strongly disagree with bus companies and local authorities NOT printing timetables (& 86% route maps). We had at least 4 times the number of respondents than Transdev’s survey and ours was national and independent. Clear evidence that passengers want printed literature.

    £3.50 for Radio Times !!!! Ye Gods. 75p for my What’s On 😀

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    1. The Great British Bus Survey is a completely useless survey that cannot be taken seriously. It is not in any way representative of the main users of bus services the passengers themselves. The whole survey is fundamentally flawed and not to be taken as a matter of fact in any way . When Tfwm did research on board buses and at bus stations which I was part of the data collection team the overwhelming majority of bus passengers data we collected from did not want to use paper timetables and saw no use for them. I have never ever seen anyone connected with the so called Great British Bus Survey ever collecting passenger data anywhere on buses or interchanges in the West Midlands

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      1. On what basis are you dismissing The Great British Bus Survey” Why are you claiming a survey that just covered the TFwm is more accurate?

        I would suggest the TFwm mainly asked regular travellers and not visitors or tourist or new users or people who do not normally use a bus. These are the people that are likely to need a network may and at least an indication of the routes and frequencies

        Ignoring 95% of your potential customer base is not really sensible but that is what most bus companies do and is why most are in decline

        How many bus companies are expanding other than by takeovers ?

        Another factor often forgotten by bus companies is the cost of operating a bus is pretty much the same whether it caries 1 passenger or 80. Constantly increasing fares whilst cutting services just leads to diminishing returns as the car and taxi becomes a better option in fact in many areas 90% of their customers are school children and Concessionary pass holders which is hardly surprising when the typical bus company just ignore 95% pf its potential market and does not provide services that are of any use to them another issue is many users have no confidence that there bus service will continue to operate

        It needs a lot of investment , Far better management and far higher standards and far better services and far lower fares to attract people back to buses

        People need service that meet there needs. That are not going to use what currently passes as bus services. Will things change? Well the track record over decades say No. Services will continue to get worse

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      2. The Great Britain Bus Survey is simply statically flawed in reach of bus users & beside here in Brum my parents live in Torbay so I regularly use the 2 12 22 32 39 64 88 92 . To see if was just the 2nd City that had never heard of it or completed it I usually ask at the bus stops there & yet again not a single person I have asked have ever heard of it or completed it. On attending many conferences around the UK in the industry I always get the same response that its something for bus enthusiasts. If the many so called armchair bus enthusiasts or the few that love surveys want to complete it that’s up to them but it certainly doesn’t represent actual regular bus users overall. That’s my opinion and if others disagree that up to them but just aaked everyone on the NXWM X8 & no has ever heard of it even the driver!

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      3. You are truly amazing if you can be at every bus stop and on every vehicle in the West Midlands all at the same time. Your comment is in the category of the “bus did not come” when it was at the stop before you were and carried on it’s way.

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      4. Did you used to write the clues on the Yorkshire Television series 3*2*1 ? I couldn’t understand those either funny enough being a thick Brummie. Just asked everyone on the 16 if they had ever heard of the Great British Survey again as always they hadn’t a clue what I was on about. Asked them about the recent WMCA consultation on future of transport across the West Midlands & two had. That says it all in a nutshell.

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      5. One bus on one service that runs all day with a double figure PVR. My guess is that statistics and data handling are not your strengths,

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      6. I agree my HNC in Applied Statistics & Master of Business Administration have been a total hindrance to my career. What was it like working with Dusty Bin ? I remember him switching the Christmas Lights on in Torquay on an open top Scannia of Stagecoachs mind you when I got a signed autograph from him he had never heard of The Great British Bus Survey. What a legend.

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  14. As well as First Essex, we’ve also seen Go North East return to printed timetables.

    We have to appreciate that we’re not going to see the timetable books of old; some weighty tome that included rather boring and functional tables along with market days and the like. However, there are still areas that DO lend themselves to a tourist orientated guide. Granted, that’s not going to include the depths of Darlaston or Darlington but places like the Lakes, Cornwall and the IOW where there are significant numbers of tourists and where there is a definite need/want for that type of all in one place guide.

    Elsewhere, the provision of printed materials is perhaps stymied by the lack of a suitable outlet from which to distribute them; staffed bus shops are something that are difficult to justify. However, there are solutions to be had, whether it be on bus, through partners, or lower-cost options like kiosks or even free-standing display units.

    Promoting bus services has to be a multi-faceted, nuanced activity that reflects the differing requirements of individual markets. What works in Helston may not be appropriate in Hellaby nor vice versa.

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  15. So the RDG are blaming the DOT well it makes a change from them blaming Network Rail!The private sector, and it’s highly paid MD’s/CEO’s and shareholders knew what they where getting into when they took on rail franchises yet they don’t seem able to take one bit of personal responsibility.NR to blame yes because it’s track is broken by their trains!Not producing timetables is put forward as environmentally friendly but I ceased to worry about drinking straws, plastic toothbrushes,etc when at the same time people are allowed to buy two tonnes of plastic and metal and drive around in it .

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    1. A couple of points, it is the Dept. for Transport and all the franchises are now run by the government (DfT) as management contracts. Part of the contract is that they are not allowed to spend anything unless the DfT says so; so yes the DfT are to blame but their remit is to claw back some of the money they paid to the franchises to run the empty trains during the pandemic, it is the Dft who keep all revenue generated by the contracts. With regards to two tonnes of plastic & metal, I do agree and those with 4×4 Chelsea taxis should pay 5 x the road tax with a portion of this tax being used to fund public transport!

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  16. A good proportion of the UK population does not have access to the Internet so are unable to see all that wonderful information that’s “all on line”. Recently I have needed to look up train times on a rail website and have been rather surprised to discover that there are no stations in either Brentwood or Winchester although I have used trains to both stations so to say, “it’s all on line” is not exactly true!

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    1. Many of the rail web sites are dreadful for finding information even finding as timtable can be hard worj. To even find anthing you need to know the rail company. If you are visitor you are not going to know that

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      1. On a footnote Rotala have announced to the City that they have purchased the Excelbus operations of Johnsons in Warwickshire to add to the excellent DIAMOND BUS operations. The services will be run from Redditch and will give thier customers a more professional and premium operation which we have come to expect across the West Midlands from DIAMOND BUS.

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  17. Richard Jones. Do you have any evidence to back up your laughable statement about the Great British Bus Survey? Unless you’ve accessed my computer you could not possibly back up your views about this professional, independent survey with questions NOONE has ever asked before.
    You insult the many hundreds who gave their time to complete it.
    To have such a terrifyingly strong view on the survey, you must bear a grudge. Please clarify and declare your interest.
    If you want I can send you a copy of the survey summary.

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    1. Yes when I am doing the exhaustive data collecting across the West Midlands County on our bus network not a single person I have asked who are actually using the West Midlands Bus Network have ever heard of your survey let alone completed it. I talk to hundreds of people in Birmingham & The Black Country each month so consequently if your survey is not being completed by our customers of NXWM & Diamond Bus then it not a really a national survey of actual Bus Users but a whim of an enthuisat & is totally irrelevant to the Bus Industry and to Bus Passengers across the West Midlands Bus Network.

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      1. So, when you say the the Great British Bus Survey is ‘completely useless’, ‘not to be taken seriously’ ‘fundamentally flawed’, you are basing that simply on the fact that you’ve not heard of it and noone you know has heard of it.
        Not much of an argument.
        We had no budget so promoted it mainly on Twitter. Even though the bus companies & TAs would benefit from the results, very few bothered to tell their Twitter staff to promote it on Twitter, meaning millions of passengers, like yourself, would not get to hear about it.
        The questions were all valid statistically-speaking. Many hundreds nationwide did hear about it and responded.
        Yes, the response wasn’t statistically valid, you would need many thousands of respondents for that. Surely you’re not saying the results are not interesting and it was a complete waste of time. It’s the ONLY data we have on some of the issues.
        Be interested to know how you would have promoted a national survey on no budget.
        No need to disrespect people’s hard work with such strong language, mate.
        But great to hear your opinion 👍 Free speech should be cherished

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      2. If as I have proved the majority of end of users I have met are not completely it then the model is statistically flawed and unsound. Why not apply for lottery funding and then get it distributed to operators to leave on the buses for people to pick up or contact Associated Newspapers to get it featured in “Metro ” which is found in many areas onboard or perhaps an organisationsuch as Mustard who coordinate all TfWM research. . Just a few ideas which would achieve your goals better somewhat. To correct you I have heard of it & complete it for what’s its worth it’s a shame no one else I talk too have. To me it is a complete waste time of as the Data is simply not clean and the statistically modeling is therefore flawed.

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  18. Well one good reason for printed publicity is so that drivers can answer questions when asked. No operator wants them using a smartphone in the cab. And at the moment, very few are able to answer timetable enquiries at all, frequently including the route they are driving. It’s basic customer service, isn’t it?
    Another, especially in rural areas, is poor mobile phone signals (see Roger’s own recent travels in rural East Anglia) though it is surprisingly common in urban locations too. Admittedly, roadside bus stop displays tend to be much more numerous these days (well, pre-Covid anyway) but many of the departure list styles don’t actually reveal journey times (so “what time do I get there?” and “what time do I catch a bus back?” can’t be worked out at the stop).
    Neither on-line nor print is a panacea – there’s definitely a need for both.

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    1. With roadside timetables it depends where you are. In many areas they have abandoned then and those areas that have them tend to use those that show the time the bus arrives at the stop and its final destination which is not a lot of use if you are not going to the final destination

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  19. Post BRG Bus network review work focuses on life after revenue support

    It seem the operators are going to have to share a lot of commercially sensitive information

    No mention of any more funding so quite how the areas with no BSIP funding will keep the existing networks going i unclear. They seem to be hoping passenger numbers will recover but that in my view seems unlikely

    If you take rail commuter traffic is still well down but leisure travel has done quite well. The problem is buses have little leisure travel as that’s a market they have all but abandoned

    Guidance on the bus network review process in England, required by the terms and conditions of Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) Extension funding, has been published.

    The overriding aim of each bus network review is to develop a plan for continued sustainability of commercial and tendered networks once pandemic-related revenue funding in England ceases for good after 4 October. The latter consideration includes concessionary reimbursement returning to levels based on actual usage from the 2023/24 financial year, unless agreed otherwise.

    Network reviews are expected to “set expectations of service levels at the end of the recovery period and give certainty to local transport authorities (LTAs).” Each LTA must produce a network review and submit it to the Department for Transport (DfT) by 1 July. The work should be undertaken in collaboration with all bus operators in the LTA’s area.

    Review aim should be ‘stable and resilient’ bus network provision
    DfT defines sustainable networks as those that are stable and resilient but which from October will consider new travel patterns. Bus network review preparation will require significant data sharing between operators and LTAs on patronage and revenue, but LTAs will also be required to share “relevant information” such as footfall levels and their rate of recovery.

    Collectively, that data should be used to agree “a common understanding and a shared set of assumptions (high, medium and low) of how [LTAs and operators] expect patronage to recover over the next six to 12 months,” the guidance states.

    Bus network review guidance published by DfT
    Bus network review work should go hand-in-hand with collaboration to maximise the return of passenger in the meantime, the guidance says
    When combined with risks (such as fuel prices and driver shortages), a route-by-route revenue forecast should then be created and viable, marginal or non-commercial categorisation assigned to each service.

    “Following revenue data assessments, LTAs and operators should agree where route or service changes are necessary,” it continues.

    In a further hint that DfT recognises the commercial network may shrink post-BRG Extension funding, the network review guidance notes that a ‘deep dive’ look at cost and revenue data “will allow decisions to be made about whether certain routes should be prioritised for tendering, and the associated costs.”

    That will be part of a wider agreement between LTAs and operators where route or service changes are necessary. Any such alterations may be made once the bus network review is submitted, unless otherwise agreed. “This work is intended to smooth the transition away from government funding and avoid a cliff-edge in October,” the guidance adds.

    What will not be permitted is ‘demand scarring’ when changes are made. Should alterations impact demand on other services locally, “then there must be alternative provision in place,” the guidance states. “It would be contrary to the objectives of this government’s support to reduce long-term demand through removal of a service.”

    Recovering patronage ahead of October is ‘imperative’
    While preparing for a world beyond revenue support is the primary focus of the bus network review process in England, the guidance also stresses the importance of collaboration between LTAs and operators to maximise the return of patronage in the intervening period. It is “imperative,” the document says.

    Perhaps in recognition that concessionary usage has not recovered at the same rate seen among farepayers, the guidance highlights it specifically as an area that must be considered as part of this work. To help with that, both LTAs and operators may use money from their BRG Extension allocations towards marketing campaigns if they wish.

    In addition, the network review process can be tied with Enhanced Partnership arrangements to encourage modal shift. Such work could major on intermodal and/or simpler ticketing and fares and parking levies or similar measures that target congestion or air quality improvements.

    The 1 July submission deadline has been selected to allow time for service registration changes to be lodged in time for October.

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      1. I am unclear as to how the so called enhanced partnerships will work. It may work in areas with one dominate operator but in areas with lots of commercial operators competing it will be difficult to impossible

        Having tickets interchangeable regardless of operator makes sense and might be achievable, Being able to book a though ticket as you can with rail would help but I don’t think that’s even being considered

        Buses in an area really need to be treated as a network rather than lots of competing service. On rail they have accepted that does not work. I am not sure how you get there with buses as the companies are still separate companies competing for business

        Another sensible measure would be to significantly to cut fares at weekends and even offer group tickets

        With no funding though I think Enhanced partnerships will be just tinkering at the edges and at best will just slow down the decline of bus service

        To gain customers means targeting the 95% that currently do not use buses but that needs a lot of investment a lot better management and a lot more innovation and buses that run where people want to go and when people want to travel and services that are a lot more frequent and probably a lot more interurban limited stop services similar to the old Greenline network

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      2. A number of routes here in which NXWM & Diamond Bus were competing against each other on are currently operated within existing Quality Enhanced Partnerships and are marketed by TfWM as West Midlands Bus sharing coordinated timetables and ticketing mainly around West Bromwich.

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  20. That’s a little easier. It will get more difficult when councils see some corridors as over bused and legislation may get in the way as well

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    1. Yes Bob fully agree TfWM see it as partnership between themselves and the operators however that may not be the case everywhere however.

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  21. To go back to the subject of the original post (though the discussion around travel surveys was entertaining!), It is clear that so many people now use electronic means and in this volatile bus operating climate, leaflets would probably need to be pulped before they could be widely distributed.

    However, a printed timetable does offer a valuable marketing opportunity.

    I think a more pertinent question is how do we get online information better in a world where printed information is secondary? Some bus company websites are atrocious in this respect, requiring the user to scroll through services from every corner of the UK from a list where everything is listed in ‘computer speak’ rather than an obvious numerical order. When you do eventually find a timetable, short journeys or variations within the timetable are often presented in an illogical format with no regard to the actual geography of a place in relation to other points of the timetable.

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    1. Printed information may be secondary, but it still very much has its place, and just now the industry should be using every means at its disposal . . . if there are concerns about the longevity of a timetable book, then print fewer copies initially and be prepared for a reprint.

      I agree that distribution is more difficult, but a stall in the local market once a month . . . possibly staffed by volunteers and paid for by the local council . . . not rocket science.
      Something for the new Enhanced Partnerships to consider . . . a Bus Users Group, similar to Community Rail Partnerships.

      It is still essential that bus stop information is kept up to date, and regrettably Intalink, once a beacon of shining light here, is slipping . . . many bus stops in and around Watford seem not to have been updated for the 17 April changes.

      As far as on-line information is concerned . . . I quite agree that such information needs to be both accurate and timely . . . regrettably Intalink has not done so well here either. Whilst the on-line timetables are produced in both pdf and look-up format, the new Watford and Hemel Hempstead maps are inaccurate, with withdrawn routes still shown . . . I’ve contacted them about this (via the “contact” button on the home page), but they haven’t replied.

      And finally, folks . . . whilst this blog has become a venue for much debate, which is a good thing . . . may I suggest that respondents take a moment to read their posts, and avoid personal criticism? We can always be polite to each other, even if we disagree sometimes.

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      1. If that is directed at me I am a 6ft 1ins Blonde 54 year old 15 stone Brummie bought up in a hard working class area of Brum if anyone doesn’t like my opinions then TOUGH but if you have criticisms then direct it to me personally.

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      2. I too have taken issue with the timeliness of posting information in Intalink land and have made comments about the new maps. One of the delays with the timetable posting was apparently due to a software fault which caused the fonts to render incorrectly on the panels which was only solved just prior to the April changes. Things should improve on this front, but I appreciate it hasn’t been ideal.

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    2. In many cases it ned not be the full timetable just the route number and start and finish point of the route and the frequency. For route that are very infrequent then the full timetable would be needed but these routes tend to not change very often

      I think the guidance as well i routes should change no more than twice a year

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  22. HCC has had an Enhanced partnership for some . It does not seem to have made any significnt tmprovement to services if at all. Perhaps communications between the LTA and the operators is better but the overall benefit seems to be marginal

    HCC is getting some BSIP cash so we will have to wait and see if that gives any improvements

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  23. I agree with many of the sentiments. Locally, I’ve experienced both the benefits of an active BUGS and interurban and suburban initiatives for a decade or more. The problem is they are so hard to sustain, as people move on and priorities change. They are no magic solution. Whatever the textbook says or we learn these days in the classroom, our lifestyles are not amenable to the bus.

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    1. Well rail is succeding but rail operates from early morning to late evening 7 days a week. With buses in many areas they only operate 6 days a week from about 7am to 6pm and even Sturday services are being cut back. Frequencies on buses as well in general are far lower

      I think good local bus services are needed that go into the residential areas and in addition to these you have limited stop services. Through ticketing should also be available

      First bus seem to make this work with their Norwich to Peterborough sevice. It is fast and frequent Morwich and Perborough have a decent population but in between the places are quite small

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  24. Paris Suspends all its electic buses

    Paris has suspended all its electric buses following several fires. No cause of these fires has been identified at present . The highest risk part in an electric bus is the Lithium batteries these can catch fire and can even explode. Fast charging can also increase the fire risk

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  25. As always, Roger, many interesting and thought provoking points.
    While many of us understand the move to online timetables, accessed on the move using a smart device, no thought or consideration is given to those who live or may be travelling in a poor or non-existent signal area – and they do exist.

    I also think the RDG’s view that ‘only’ 9% of passengers dont own a smartphone is merely glossing over the fact there is a need for printed timetables because some passengers feel more comfortable with them.

    I’m a great believer and user of modern tech, but on need to use a bus recently, there was no printed timetable at the bus stop, just a requirement to download the bus co’s app. That’s not what people want to do. They want immediate information, in order to make decisions right for them and the journey they are about to undertake.

    I also had the need last year to present some formal documentation for ID purposes, but as many sources were from online accounts, the organisation concerned didnt accept documentation printed at home! Cake and eat it?

    Also, thanks for that reminder of a great rover ticket for those of us upwards of 55. It was a ticket I hadnt realised was available.

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  26. When you look at bus usage outside of London it is incredibly lo and clearly shows bus companies are failing to meet the needs of customers

    Outside off London the Average miles travelled on a bus by each person per year is just 7 miles if you take taxis though the Average is 68 Miles

    Do bus companies understand their customers and potential customers neds. I would say they clearly do not

    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ad-hoc-national-travel-survey-analysis

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  27. One of my jobs in the MOD was as a communications officer for a large project team one of our principles was that people absorb information differently. In the office context that meant I managed an intranet with push notifications, actual noticeboards located near where staff congregated (the kitchen area), and produced leaflets when new initiatives were being launched.

    If you assume all your customers look at online information you are likely to be losing business.

    Like

    1. Surprising Number on the 144 today between Birmingham & Worcester on Midland Reds final day. Looking forward to the final journey ever from Worcester to Birmingham but first lunch at Spoons Foley Arms one of the best before the (1)44

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  28. Yesterday I downloaded the May 2022 National rail timetable in 30 seconds. All trains, all operators but crucially it has an end date.

    The nearest bus equivalent was Brighton and Hoves BusTimes that was also downloadable all buses, all operators in Brighton with an end date, that was also available as a book that rolled up to carry about.

    It contained whats changed, fares, maps also able to read on a phone.

    I’ve recently undertaken a bus journey from Eastbourne to Whitstable, spending half my time staring at my phone trying to work out connections thanks to poor website design, as an example there are three separate timetables between Ashford and Canterbury for 1, 1A and 1X!

    Its interesting former PTEs with the notable exception of the West Midlands produce timetables including maps to standard formats with multiple operators shown together in printable documents sustaining a high quality integrated single brand still in printable format.

    It is vital that timetables are available in printable format so that the potential for paper versions still exists.

    I produced a Lothian Buses timetable for several years grouping over 40 services by day so that Monday to Friday faced one way, Saturday the other with Sunday in the middle.

    In the world of open data the potential should exist to produce conventional timetables in an instant for a specific day that are not constrained by small minded political and Operator based boundarys.

    Bustimes.org is the national bus timetable it’s just not in printable format yet!

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    1. John, Transport for West Midlands all operators timetables with maps and area maps are still available from the Customer Information Point of TfWM in Halesowen Bus Station on demand.

      Like

    2. I use the Travel Line one’s but they do sometimes split services which are actually direct for example the X5 Oxford Cambridge use to be in 3 stages; Oxford Milton Keynes, there to Bedford and finally Cambridge.I understand it only goes Oxford Bedford now and is something else north east to Cambridge so it’ll only be in 2 stages now.I have just been looking at the services from Blyth to Newcastle for Wednesday evening and everytime I look at the different service say X10 to X11 it drops back to the day you are looking and I’m looking on a Sunday which would be different from a weekday.Sometimes you don’t notice.It’d obviously be worse if you mixed up a weekday with a Sunday as they’d be less frequent when you turned up Sunday night! Although as it turns out in Blyth’s case a storm in a tea cup as even on a Sunday night they seem to be 1/4 hourly so even if one was cancelled you’d only have 30 minutes to examine the delights of Blyth bus station which I haven’t set foot in since the mid 1980’s when United still owned it!

      Like

  29. Newcastle’s Eldon Square Bus Station. Screen showed my bus due to leave in 7 minutes. Walked towards bus and it reversed off the stand. Supervisor nearby so I complained. His response “you don’t take any notice of that. That’s real time information. Never worked since the day it was installed. I always use a printed timetable.” Fortunately since this is a Go North East territory they are available and showed that the bus had departed spot on time.

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  30. All very interesting. As an enthusiast who does not travel by car, but often by bus on different roundabout itineraries, I prefer printed timetables and need maps. Just back from Sweden where it is even worse, there are no printed timetables or maps,[ there were until c 2020] though many travel office staff in Goteborg agreed with me -they want printed maps at least for all the tourists, but they have been banned to save paper and the environment! Mercifully the European timetable is still published and I travelled with the torn-out Sweden pages. Stockholm no longer even has a rail booking office. Using the ticket machines, you cannot ask questions re alternative routes or where to change. It is interesting that there are many cross-country bus or coach routes, often using comfortable double-deckers, and SJ must be losing passengers to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was in Sweden about 3 years ago and Upsala definitely had a ticket office because I went to it was I wanted to travel on the local train back to Stockholm (SL) to see what it was like having come up on the SJ service but I couldn’t get the machine to do SL tickets.I can’t remember if Stockholm did.I have read that Denmark only has 2 ticket offices left in the whole country; Copenhagen and Arhaus!The Netherlands still has them,or did a few years ago, having used them at Rotterdam and Tilburg.But the one at the Hoek van Holland has gone and Rotterdam Metro run it now rather than NS.

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  31. Timetables are a “nice to have”, but I for one find it difficult to dispute the conclusion which seems to have been reached by both Arriva and First in the congested (and poorly resourced) South East, that reliability is the number one priority. What it needs is reduced frequencies, and smaller networks (hopefully creating opportunities for local competition).

    I fear that perhaps concentrating just on information is again putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

    Like

  32. Absolutely Brilliant and witty response to to the subject the repetitive sarcastic style additions make the whole blog very entertaining and of course very relevant

    Like

  33. I have to disagree with you there Richard… NX and Diamond don’t always have up to date timetables or maps on their website.. Look at the 144A that timetable only got put up the Firday as the route started on the following Tuesday… Then there’s the case of maps….the map for all partnership routes and the 144A.

    Moving on to Diamond the changes page for Johnsons take over has several routes incorrect.

    This is weher printed information comes into it’s own. There are several people who still prefer the printed edition. I contaced the customers service team at TfWM for timetables and I’m still waiting for them.

    There is one travel Centre still open in the West Midlands that being in Wolverhampton.

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    1. The tender for the 144A was awarded at such short notice the timetable went live on the NX website as soon as possible. All NXWM services are date coded and everyone is live on its website before the timetable commences. Diamond Bus also load all new timetables on the app & website. Again because of the very short nature of the takeover of Johnsons services by Diamond in West Midlands County the best effort has been made by Rotala to get this updated as soon as humanly possible. Maps & timetables on West Midlands Bus services are the responsibility of Transport for West Midlands to whome both NXWM & Diamond Bus pay a Levy too to provide this. TfWM aim to fulfill timetable requests within 28 days. The standard of information provided on bus services in the West Midlands County is one of the best in England if you wish to provide me with examples of current services which are inaccurate then I will investigate and pass the matter to the appropriate person at NX , Rotala or West Midlands Combined Authority.

      Like

      1. I know all of this..

        Howeversome of the information that was on the Diamond website was incorrect.

        e.g 88 Solihull – Coventry. Which has now been coreected as I contact them.

        In response to the WMB maps… The timetables are showing but the maps on NX’s websire aren’t…but on the Diamond website they show like the App.

        I contacted TfWM over 28 days ago probably a couple of months ago but had no timetables through the post. I think it was before Christmas..I can’t remember what services it was for though.

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      2. If you contact Rodger privately by email with the date of your request and what you asked for I will contact directly Sarah Jones Head of Customer Relations at TfWM to find out what has happened. Thank you for contacting Diamond Bus with your corrections unfortunately these services have materialised faster than anticipated for the long term benefit of passengers. I did notice the error with the 88 myself which has been corrected. The TfWM website should have timetable for all services on its website. NXWM provide its own website whilst Diamond Bus has full timetables , maps and bus tracking on its app. If you would let me know what you think would enhance what is already available on the TfWM website and app I will pass it on to The Mayor, Andy Street CBE of West Midlands Combined Authority personally for his consideration .

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  34. As I said I can’t remember what I asked for when I contacted TfWM so, probably not best to email Sarah as it would probably be a waste of her time…

    In response to the Diamond and NX website

    I knew Diamond had everything together. With NX though I’m talking about the maps on thier website. If you look under say the 1 for Birmingham it has the timetable and an option of a map… But if you look at the 42 page it only offers the timetable.

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    1. Service 42 in West Bromwich is a West Midlands Bus service. Transport for West Midlands are responsible for timetables and maps for this service which NXWM pay them for. Diamond Bus provide live tracking on this service on thier app and provide the timetable & map as a matter of courtesy to its passengers. The 42 is covered by an Enhanced Quality Partnership agreement which outlines basically who does what. The 1 from Five Ways to Acocks Green is a commercial service operated by NXWM and as such they provide timetable & maps on thier website. NXWM rarely provide maps on services operated in partnership with TfWM it is thier responsibility.

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      1. But surely theit sould work both ways for the 42… Diamond show the map and thimes so shouldn’t NX do the same.evenythogh it’s a joint route and is as you say the map should be provided by TfWM.

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      2. It is up to National Express PLC & Rotala PLC to decide what information they provide on thier own websites and apps on services provided in partnership with Transport for West Midlands who have the ultimate responsibility for West Midlands Bus.

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  35. Thanks to Margaret Thatchers government and the legislation enacted by her Transport Secretary Nicholas Ridley in The Transport Act of 1985 The Birmingham Coach Company saw a gap in the West Midlands bus market and continue to serve the passengers of the West Midlands County sucessfully with the lowest fares in England over 35 years later as Diamond Bus

    Like

  36. Ok…

    It just looks a bit silly that one operator shows one thing but the other operator only shows a timetable.

    Like

    1. It’s up to the management of each company to provide what they wish to provide on thier own website and apps.

      Like

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