Seen around

Sunday 31st July 2022

Here are some more examples of good and bad practice I’ve spotted on recent travels.

Arriving at Bridgwater rail station I had a vague idea of which direction to take to walk to the bus station but was reassured to see a prominent notice attached to a lamppost right outside the station pointing the way to the bus station.

Not only that but this helpful wayfinding continued on lampposts all the way along the ten minute walk to reach the bus station and was very helpful to a first time visitor like myself.

The route to the station in the reverse direction is also similarly waymarked.

A very good initiative and something other towns and cities could usefully follow where rail and bus stations are some distance apart.

The availability of printed promotional and information leaflets and brochures is always welcome to see not least for routes where the tourist and leisure travel is being encouraged. There’s no better way to bring the availability of such services to potential passengers attention as has been frequently discussed on this blog.

It was encouraging to see copious supplies of brochures available on the Exmoor Coaster on my recent journey and even more encouraging to see holiday makers studying the literature and discussing their upcoming trip the literature had persuaded them to make.

And talking of printed timetables and literature a shout out to two bus operators in Sussex which have produced booklets and brochures to promote their services (currently two of only three operators in Sussex to do so, the third being Southdown PSV). The Compass Bus timetable book “Travel times” includes all its bus routes across both East and West Sussex as well as Surrey with supplies readily available on board buses …..

…. while community bus operator Cuckmere Buses has commissioned the production of eye catching attractive publicity which just makes you want to travel on their routes in the Cuckmere Valley and beyond.

The Cuckmere Valley Ramblerbus route 47 is a particular delightful circular tour to take on a weekend.

As already mentioned in my blog about Somerset’s Secret Rural Bus Route a lovely colourful bus map on the wall of Bridgwater’s bus station was great to see as are similar maps in Cornwall. They need keeping up to date of course, but do wonders for raising the profile of bus networks and selling them to a wider public.

I spotted a similar map for Stagecoach’s south west network in Barnstaple bus station …

…. which was posted on an old notice board with what looked like original Rail Alphabet lettering. A shame in a way that a poster showing train departures wasn’t included on the right hand side with details of great value bus tickets posted elsewhere.

Praise for Stagecoach in the south east too which had maps of its network posted at bus shelters as well as information about tickets – as seen on my recent visit to Dover.

It was good to see many smart newly designed Buses of Somerset branded bus stops throughout Somerset but not so professional was this bus stop flag which has seen better days in the centre of Bridgwater and isn’t a good look for the image of bus travel.

Also, not so impressive were the displays overseen by Thurrock Council in Grays bus station.

The real time display was good to see but the notices on the static display are not only posted one covering up another but are out of date and faded and the offensive graffiti really does need cleaning off.

Meanwhile in Stevenage, someone (GTR?) needs to amend the signage at the station which points passengers to buses in the wrong direction now the new bus station has opened to the left of the station, rather than to the right.

Maybe when it’s updated a pictogram of a right hand drive bus might be good to include too.

Own goals scored aplenty on Merseyside when I visited last month and found both Arriva …

…. and Stagecoach promoting second hand car sales.

They were all over Liverpool.

While in Liverpool I tried to get my head around why the Combined Authority promote partnership routes jointly operated by Arriva and Stagecoach with coordinated frequencies etc, such as the 10A to St Helens, by posting timetable departures separately for both operators at bus stops.

It hardly makes it easy for passengers nor is in the spirit of ‘partnership’.

The lack of Oyster card readers at Farringdon station for passengers transferring between Thameslink and the new Elizabeth Line still hasn’t been sorted. It was inexcusable this obvious requirement was missed but for it to continue some weeks after launch is getting tiresome for passengers who have to make their way upstairs, through the barriers and back down again.

National Express West Midlands promote its advanced cleaning regime on its buses in a high profile way ….

…. which is all good, but sadly my journey on an X2 from Solihull last week was on a filthy bus with a floor where a sugary drink had been spilled earlier and dried leaving a nasty sticky mess all over the floor from the front to the stairs.

Why oh why do operators continue the malpractice of blocking the forward view from the front seat?

It’s so annoying.

Operators displaying the legally required ownership details on the nearside of the bus in this slapdash and questionable way….

…. make me wonder what else on the bus is being treated similarly without care and attention.

I’m going to miss the different train company names we’ve all grown to love (or not) when the Great British Railways brand finally arrives but one thing I won’t miss are the brand specific adverts the marketing people at GTR put up at stations on the Brighton Main Line.

I know it’s advertising both Gatwick and Luton airports but the quickest train from Hassocks (where this poster can be found) to Gatwick Airport is on Southern (or in the peaks Gatwick Express) rather than the slower Thameslink, which is better avoided – all the more so as departures tend to be just a few minutes after Southern. If you follow GTR’s advice you’ll let that first and quickest train go to catch the second and slower one.

Also, platform 5 (along with 6) At Gatwick Airport are the ones out of action at the moment while the station is expanded and the track is looking particularly overgrown with weeds.

And while on the subject of useless displays …. welcome to the world of TfL bus stop timetables. This one is in Barnes….

… while on the south side of Hammersmith Bridge the bus shelter at Castelnau continues to display the wrong spider map (which I pointed out a couple of years ago).

All in the name of confusing passengers.

And on that theme, over at the Southend Travel Centre there’s a rather nice display showing where to catch your bus as well as a listing by route of what goes where which is all very helpful…

… except there are two posters (positions 3 and 5 above) which are almost identical…

…. giving information in alphabetical order by destination of what routes to catch and where from.

All very good, but why two posters, you might well be wondering?

That’s because the person who put them up forgot to take the old one down when they posted the April 2022 version…

…. so if you’re in Southend make sure you don’t follow the out-of-date information from nearly five years ago from the one in position 5.

I was with my friend Ray, when we spotted this and thought it might be helpful to let the person who sits in what used to be part of the Arriva travel shop and a coach tour booking window know about it, but he told us in no uncertain terms he was only there for security (that’s SECURITY) and had nothing to do with bus information.

What a shame.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

28 thoughts on “Seen around

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  1. Most of the issues highlighted above are just lack of attention to detail. If you take the picture showing the drivers cab there is a clutter of notices. Is the Please show your pass one really needed ?
    The three main notices could be combined into one. The timetable leaflet box is probably better relocated to somewhere else on the bus

    There is another mystery with the 10A timetables It shows times in light text as AM or PM. The same times are on both the Arriva and Stagecoach timetables. It seems to just confuse things. I think it is perhaps just to help people who do not understand the 24 clock and is not actual bus times but I might be wrong

    Clearly as well they need to be combined into a single timetable

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  2. As soon as I saw the “slapdash owner’s details” I thought, “That’s not the way Ipswich Buses work” as I recognised the livery. I wonder how long “Guru Travel” have had that bus? (Long enough to stencil a fleet number on the front, though!)

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  3. Manny, many decades ago . . . in London there was (at least one) a Publicity Inspector who travelled around the Executive’s area checking up on publicity matters . . . in-date timetables and posters, reporting damaged displays and so on. His name was Albert W McCall . . . and his claim to fame was that he wrote the definitive history of Green Line! The book was published in 1980, and is now long out of print . . . but if you find a copy, it’s a really good read.

    My point is that, back in the last Millennium, LT took their publicity very seriously . . . it was, after all, then the only way to inform passengers. There are thousands of Roger French’s out there who could (and would) report duff publicity; bus stop flags and the like . . . but for what purpose? With very limited exceptions, the industry and local authorities just don’t care any more.

    The solution? I don’t have one . . . not one that might have an effect, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Surely the director of innovation at tfl can do that?
      Also. When staff raise that there is a problem, they’re ignored and when keep reporting are told you’re not helpful. So eventually they give up. And then everything is just a great success

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  4. (Chants), ‘There’s only one Roger French.’ But I completely agree, there are thousands of people who would (and quite possibly do) feed back to companies where they are getting things wrong.

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  5. Here’s another bad example. In my home town of Corsham in Wiltshire the late evening journeys (two each way) on service X31 were rerouted following complaints by non bus using residents about vibrations. The daytime commercial journeys ran every 20 minutes and remained unchanged. The revised route missed out an area of social housing. Wiltshire Council put up a new bus stop on the diversion and a timetable. I raised this to my local Councillor querying why an area of social housing should loose bus service due to more affluent non bus users complaints about vibrations. She agreed and raised the issue with Wiltshire Council. A few weeks later the diversion was cancelled, but two years later the now disused bus stop and timetable are still there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Must challenge the “only two operators in Sussex” who produce a timetable book. Southdown PSV, HQ’d in Copthorne (West Sussex) do just that with a similar excellent publication. Normally at the start of the academic year in September, unless (rare) drastic service changes occur.

    And yes, I could compile a similar list on most days, but so often complaints/suggestions are handled by people who clearly never use public transport themselves, or who miss the point I try to make and reply with an “off-the-shelf” corporate speak answer worse than useless.

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    1. Terence makes an excellent point about off the shelf corporate replies.
      Many of us who read this blog can see simple ways to improve public transport services, but offer these up and it soon becomes apparent that it is just a corporate response.
      Even the best managers cannot know everywhere, so local suggestions that are no or low cost should be encouraged rather than just cleared from the desk.

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  7. Well one improvement for the Merseyside PTE is having bus times using the 24hr clock, although I’m not sure if Sir’s Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Smog will approve not that they ever get buses, Merseyside PTE use to do rail times in the 24 hour clock but have bus times using the 12 hour clock but I’m not sure what they used for the Mersey Ferry.And around 15 years ago their schools still taught kids temperature in Fahrenheit!I should point out to Sir Jacob,in the unlikely event he’s reading this,that Gabriel Fahrenheit was an East Prussian,Anders Celsius a Swede so a dedicated British nationalist should really be using Kelvin as Lord Kelvin was Irish but brought up in Scotland.He was born in Belfast then just Ireland as Northern Ireland didn’t exist.And Kelvin is based on a metric scale like Celsius.

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  8. Again, a really interesting post from Roger and one that highlights some of the frustrations that are evident in areas of the UK bus industry.

    In FBB’s Public Transport Experience blog, he rails against it being “all online”. Well, we can’t go back to some sepia tinted era where every market town had an enquiry office. However, so many websites are either badly set up and impossible to navigate (Arriva and Stagecoach) and/or are fully of duff information (Arriva again). We do need to embrace digitisation and it has some advantages over analogue methods – changes can be communicated more readily, and you can find out information remotely and at any time of day. However, digital and analogue – they should be a mix, not an either/or equation.

    Physical leaflets do help especially if they are part of the wider marketing mix – First Kernow aren’t the only exponent. Walking into Victoria bus station in Nottingham, TrentBarton and NCT leaflets were all readily available and they actively promote those services. You can highlight Transdev and even other parts of First are actually quite good at it – would point Roger to have a trip to Eastern Counties when he has the time in his seemingly rampant schedule.

    Allied to this is my pet hate – the closed travel centre. Roger pointed out the one in Chelmsford a few months ago but as Stagecoach and Arriva have closed most/all of theirs (the odd Stagecoach outlier seems to persist), there are plenty about. If you want to save the cost of manning, simply have them as unmanned outlets that are stocked with promo materials and timetables – unlocked at 0830, closed up at 1700? The former office in Lowestoft is located beneath the drivers’ canteen etc so they’re paying the rent/rates anyway!

    Also, decent maps that allow visitors to plan routes? Not the ones from PTEs that are a morass of routes and numbers (esp TfGM) but clear ones like the Somerset ones (though given the skeletal nature of the network in the county, that’s quite simple). There’s plenty of best practice to take advantage of!

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  9. I’ve always found buses in the UK tend to be a secret society, for people with The Knowledge.

    My local routes have three recent improvements, taking two different routes, with three different service numbers, two of which now swop over between weekdays and Saturday, and on evenings/Sundays. Even drivers aren’t always sure which route to take.

    And if passengers choose to go shopping, they now have to make sure to be back by lunchtime, as the afternoon buses on weekdays bypass the main part of the village altogether leaving them with up to a mile walk home! The only advantage is that at least the Council don’t change anything, so the (rare) sponsored service is doing quite well, considering.

    If there is one thing I’ve learnt about the Brit way of doing anything it’s never to take anything for granted. Assume it’s always wrong.

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    1. The road to hell… I suspect we get more buses, this way…

      The politicians intended that sponsored services should only fill in gaps in commercial services, but once we get a subsidy no one can afford to lose it, so commercial services can end up “filling the gaps” in sponsored services.

      As my dad used to say “rules are made to be broken” (otherwise we wouldn’t have them in the first place). Brits love making rules, for everyone else; though we’re always less keen on abiding by them.

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      1. Don’t know if I agree with that? Having worked in Ireland, I was always amazed by how British transport managers diligently adhered to EU (or EU inspired) law yet Irish transport managers… less so!

        Sadly, the reality is that many local authorities have neither the funds or the inclination to support local bus services. Problem is that you have too many operators who have been equally culpable. If bus companies barely care, or their management are so removed from local operations, how can they really apply pressure to local authorities?

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      2. I certainly didn’t mean to imply anything underhand. My impression of British opcos is one of scrupulous integrity. Though I’d certainly understand, and support, anything for a quiet life!

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  10. Roger, I pointed out the information issues in the Travel Centre to Southend Council immediately after your visit. They promised to look again ‘next time they were there’. I haven’t had the chance to go and see if anything has changed yet…..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In my area, the Council has recently removed all timetables from bus stops and replaced them with general information inviting prospective users to scan one of three QR codes for details of services. One QR code is for the largest operator, one for Traveline and one for a demand responsive service which is only available in part of the Council’s area.

    The problem here is that not everybody has a smartphone or a mobile to be able to access bus times.

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  12. That “Buses” sign at Stevenage actually points to the bus stops at the station rather than the bus station… not that that is particularly helpful for the majority of routes.

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  13. Rather annoyingly, Merseytravel show Arriva & Stagecoach 10A separately in the PDF timetables too, but some QBP routes such as 14 Liverpool-Croxteth they show both Stagecoach & Arriva 14s together

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  14. I used to regularly point out such errors to bus companies or councils. But have given up these days. Rarely do you even get a response, and normally nothing gets done. Whereas with my other hobby, theatre & comedy, any comments are always greeted with a grateful thank you, and details corrected very quickly.

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  15. As someone whose day job is bus station based, I’ve just this morning spent 30 minutes or so updating our “Where to Catch Your Bus” information displays. I’m feeling slightly guilty as the start date for the this updated information is 12th August 2022, the near-future date of changes to National Express services.
    Mind you, I also added Megabus and Flixbus changes that started on 21st and 25th July respectively as they occurred while I was on leave. However, I’d already updated and printed our departure gate hard information ready for a colleague to place in position on the due dates. Another 30 minute job at best. Not exactly an onerous task, especially when you take into account we’ve not got fancy, expensive design software to create our information displays. They’re all created in Microsoft Excel! They may not be to Best Impressions standards but the information is still imparted in a clear and easily understood style.

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  16. Interestingly I read this post a few hours after being frustrated by a notice in Carmarthen bus station to the effect that “while certain stands are closed for works buses which would have used those stands will depart instead from such-and-such street” but no information as to where that street is or directions to it. Why don’t they take a moment to ask themselves what passengers might need to know?

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  17. A lost opportunity of the BSIP process: awarding funds to councils that actually market services using map and frequency guides, route and destination finders at main stops etc etc. No marketing would mean no funding. The ‘website only’ approach only reaches those that have already made the decision to use a bus.

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  18. I very much like the lamppost way finding and it’s better than a line on the floor. I’ve have been in places in U.K. and abroad where have found directions to be poor and then am stressed by not knowing where.
    On a visit to croydon a few years ago, I had no idea where buses departed from due to pop up cycle lanes closing roads to buses, buses now not crossing town centre and bus stop closures. There were no maps, google maps was not correct, no bus stop flags and route information was found. I needed to walk 1km along a road that I knew the bus would go down.
    Pitiful and was not addressed.
    For those that could then drive a private vehicle, why would you go through that hassle. It creates modal shift away from public transport and is a a sad indictment of the falling attention and disregard of detail

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  19. Can I put in a good word for Brighton & Hove Buses, who have updated and re-issued the excellent Brighton Area Bus Map and Frequencies leaflet for Summer 2022, as well as another new seasonal “breeze up to the Downs and beyond”, promoting bus trips to the surrounding countryside attractions.

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  20. In my days at GNE as a supervisor at Chester le Street radio room I tried to take a pride in presenting information to our customers both on bus and in the travel office all to no avail as neither road staff or management appreciated. They used to deprecate me so after some time I just gave up and now in retirement it seems to have got worse the way passengers needs etc are treated. Big changes are needed to make any impression on car users .

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