Seen around

Saturday 29th April 2023

Another month’s round up of notable sights spotted on recent travels.

Hooray for a London bus map

Many thanks once again to Mike Harris who has just published the latest up to date version of his Greater London Bus Map. It’s edition no 40 and bang up to date including today’s momentous changes which see the demise of routes 507 and 521 as well as radical changes including route 11 diverted over Westminster Bridge to Waterloo, which just doesn’t look right seeing it on a map, let alone in real life.

The map includes all Night Buses but Mike also produces a separate Night Bus Map showing night buses and 24 hour services including a list of routes with frequencies, which has also been updated and published.

Map No 40 costs £2 and the Night Bus map costs £4. Orders can be placed online at Mike’s website.

It’s the only way to work out what goes where in London as the woeful TfL simply can’t be bothered to tell you. Keep up the great work Mike; London needs you.

Hooray for printed timetables

It’s always encouraging to find attractive displays of colourful timetable leaflets – almost as if some bus companies are interested in encouraging passengers.

Here from East Yorkshire in the multi modal Travel Centre in Hull (which sadly Stagecoach abandoned some years ago)

And some very attractive leaflets too.

And as featured in last Saturday’s blog – also in Ipswich…

Tottenham Hale expansion

It’s only this month I caught up with the new ticket hall which opened at Tottenham Hale station last November. It makes transferring between the Victoria Line and Greater Anglia much easier with an expanded gateline for the latter – although the platforms are still quite constricted for the numbers travelling – especially to Stansted Airport.

They’re very keen to let you know “No Oyster or Contactless Payments to Stansted Airport” as well as making it clear what will happen if you transgress.

That’s told you.

Don’t buy your coach ticket here

I was at Heathrow Airport Bus and Coach Station recently on a busy Saturday lunch time and found not only the National Express ticket office closed …

…. but all three ticket machines out of action too…

… and just for good measure the two Megabus machines weren’t working either.

Welcome to the UK and our fabulous express coach networks,

39 standing passengers. Who are they kidding?

It always puzzles me why vehicle manufacturers, DVSA and bus operators kid themselves about how many standing passengers can be accommodated on board buses. I’ve lost count of the number of Press Releases I’ve seen excitedly claiming a ridiculously high capacity because they live in a parallel universe where you can cram no end of people on to a bus with reference to something to do with the vehicles’ theoretical unladen weight and its laden capacity when full, rather than reality. But It bears no relation to how many people you could actually get on to a bus.

Who in their right mind seriously thinks you can get 39 people standing on the new Yutong E9 electric buses used on Leicester’s new Hop service for example? You’d be lucky to get 10.

… especially as there’s “NO STANDING” on the rear section.

Poor customer service 1 – First Bus

What on earth are First Bus up to with its new timetable for route 3 in the Potteries which from this week is operationally linked with the former Arriva local route 6 in Crewe?

I came out of Crewe railway station yesterday morning at 09:12 needing to get to the bus station and as Google reckons it’s a 23 minutes walk, was delighted to see a couple of passengers boarding a bus station bound route 3 right outside having arrived from Hanley. The driver sold me a £1.20 ticket (a very reasonable price) and I took my seat with about ten other passengers on board.

The driver then got out of the cab and announced he wouldn’t be leaving for 23 minutes. You can imagine the reaction of passengers. It was almost mutinous with strong language. I went to get off and walk instead and asked the driver why he hadn’t told me about the delay before selling me the ticket to which he replied he’d just announced it. What? I said you’ve just announced it after selling the tickets. He then said there’s a timetable on the bus stop to which we all suggested he was the driver and wasn’t showing any customer service skills or awareness at all. He said he couldn’t give me a refund as the time First Bus allow for such annulments had passed.

When I later consulted the timetable it clearly shows this ludicrous situation which I can only assume has been compiled by some supposed wonderful software, Either that or a complete incompetent timetable/schedule compiler.

The time allowance from the previous timing point in Haslington to Crewe railway station is a standard six minutes throughout the day. Journeys timed at the station at 06:30, 07:00, 07:30 and 07:42 are given a generous 11 minutes. The next journey at 08:10 is given a shorter nine minutes; the next journey at 08:50 has 15 minutes then my journey at 0932 is given a whopping 26 minutes allowance. The following journey at 09:52 starts the standard six minutes allowance for the rest of the day, including the evening peak.

Surely this is a mistake? As you can see above the time allowed from the railway station to the bus station is also variable with five minutes allowed at 07:30 but 15 minutes at 08:10.

Poor customer service 2 – Southern Railway

Twitter followers will know I had a disappointing day on Thursday with thick fog in the Channel preventing my flight from Gatwick landing in Guernsey and the cancellation of my planned two day visit.

I’d bought a single from Hassocks to Gatwick Airport on Thursday morning as I left home for the trip as well as a single back for my homecoming yesterday to save queuing at Gatwick Airport’s always crowded ticket machines.

Obviously with a change of plan I no longer needed that second ticket so called into Hassocks on my way home on Thursday afternoon for a refund. The computer said “no”. That’s because there’s a £10 admin fee. Can you imagine Tesco or Marks & Spencer charging £10 to refund an item bought the same day and unused?

Bearing in mind the ticket was for the next day (Friday) so couldn’t have been fraudulently used I’ve written to Southern asking for the £10 fee to be waived and my £5.85 unused single ticket refunded. I’ll let you know what reply I receive in next month’s round up.

I’m also asking First Bus to refund my £1.20 wasted ticket – am thinking of charging them a £10 admin fee for my wasted time and effort.

Friday is the new Saturday at Euston

I often travel out of Euston in the morning peak on a Friday. Because there is no peak and you can enjoy off-peak fares from first thing. Virgin did away with the afternoon peak back in 2018 but the demise of the morning peak came more recently and I’m sure most passengers are unaware. Yesterday I travelled on the 07:23 from Euston towards Manchester and it was unbelievably quiet. This could do with greater promotion to increase awareness.

Buried in the Avanti West Coast website

Out of date notices aplenty

More out-of-date notices spotted this month include these roadworks in Leicester impacting service 16 six months ago…

… while over in Waltham Cross the TfL flat fare is only £1.65 …

… that’s a whole 10p cheaper than everywhere else in London where an increase to £1.75 was introduced last month.

Meanwhile in Penrith there’s advance warning face coverings will be needed from 15th June….

…. but you can get your early bird Christmas shopping day trips in with JD Coaches….

…. and it does make you wonder whether the Cumbria Classic Coaches routes are this year’s or last year’s.

Read the small print

And remember the first rule of posting notices on bus shelters is to avoid the small print.

It helps people to read it.

… and also make them relevant, especially if the generic websites you refer people to are next to useless at advising where you can catch a replacement route C10 for the withdrawn 507 for example.

Another Harlow failure

Meanwhile back in Harlow I was initially surprised to see the former Travel Shop operated by Arriva looked as though it was back in business….

… but despite the encouraging notice it was closed when I was there on the Friday (14th) after Easter.

Euston signs

More new signs have now appeared in Euston station which are certainly clearer to read than their predecessors.

London Bridge contrasts

I passed through the splendid undercroft at London Bridge station very early one morning recently and admired the huge restoration work undertaken as the passageway was completely deserted …

… but later that morning the station was characteristically busy, especially during the school holiday, and where the ladies’ toilets were once again proving to be completely inadequate – why can’t planners ever get this right?

Gorgeous sign 1

I spotted his gorgeous sign …

… which makes it very clear where you are – shame about the lamppost though.

Gorgeous sign 2

And talking of signs, who doesn’t like an old style directional finger post. I spotted this restored beauty in Palmers Green in the old Southgate Urban District Council area (hence the name of Southgate in the centre ring) on a recent visit back to my old stomping ground.

Also visited in that area was the gorgeous iconic Charles Holden designed Underground station at Southgate…..

Good and bad scenes in Southgate

… it’s one of my favourite Underground stations…

.,. but oh dear what a state the benches have got into.

I only hope that blue container is something to do with repair and restoration work.

And finally…

… for this month, back to those phantom bus stops in Wandsworth’s Riverside Quarter for the new diversion of route 485 introduced this month, I’m grateful once again to local resident Paul who sent me the following photos last week to confirm the bus stops and shelters have finally reappeared now the route is running …

… except that the plate shows the service as only operating Mondays to Saturdays, whereas it runs daily…

… and the timetable cases have yet to be filled with anything useful like a reference to the route and its times of operation.

Paul also sent me a detailed commentary on the complete hash up TfL have made of the information about route 485 on its website with an incorrect map, incomplete information about departure times at each of the new bus stops and missing stops on TfL’s version of timetables in addition to next stop displays in the buses not working correctly. It’s as if all the information has been compiled by someone who hasn’t a clue about what they’re doing…….I’ll leave it there for this month.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

29 thoughts on “Seen around

Add yours

  1. I wouldn’t set your hopes too high for a refund of your £1.20 First Bus fare. I made a similar request from First three years ago – and am still waiting for a response!


  2. ESCC DDRT starts 9 May and 15 May but they haven’t yet
    Fully decided name branding
    Fixed fare structure
    Changed from no cash to accepting cash from passengers who have booked by phone
    Undecided on ENCTS acceptance
    No advertising

    All blamed on local elections!


  3. Another excellent article, Roger – thank you as always for your informative and entertaining blogs.

    I am amazed that you actually found a service change poster for today’s TfL bus route changes – in my experience publicity has been extremely limited. On the Horseferry Road there have been no posters connected to the 507 withdrawal, but timetables have been removed from stops (no replacement ones for route 3 as of last night).

    The route number tiles on the stop flags were replaced last weekend, so now show route 3 instead of route 507, but those heading away from Victoria still say “towards Waterloo”, which of course the 3 does not serve.

    There’s been nothing on the TfL website home page to announce the changes, and TfL has not tweeted anything to its 2.4M Twitter followers about them either. Incredibly poor.

    There are going to be a lot of confused visitors and commuters in Central London over the next few days.


  4. Hello
    so, is there still a 211 bus from Waterloo to Victoria and vice versa now? and where does one catch it at Victoria, an impossible place if the bus does not use the bus station?
    The 507 was so busy too serving St Thomas’s.
    As for Waterloo to Liverpool St I am speechless. I can use the Tube, but my wife will not.


    1. Malcolm,
      You probably know this by now, but the 211 still goes from Victoria to Waterloo and it and the 11 both depart from Stop E at the back of Terminus Place, which I suspect they always have done. Certainly the 11 used to go from there when I used it fairly regularly 50 years ago, but I’ve lost track of what’s happened in the meantime !
      From Waterloo, the 11 goes from Stop A in the Taxi Road and the 211 from Stop B, and they both call at Stop W in York Road, again presumably the same stops as 507 and 521 used.
      A lot of other routes at Waterloo have changed stops though (e.g. 139), which has caused some grumbling/consternation among contributors on the ‘Nextdoor’ social media site for my part of Surrey.


  5. Roger…. your “seen around” comments simply reinforce my opinion that most public transport operators have an almost complete indifference to the traveling public, particularly in regard to providing information about services. You are a very respected name in public transport operations, yet appear to accept that this is the norm. With the influence and contacts you probably have, why don’t you take action to improve this situation instead of just accepting it?


  6. First may not have anything in The Potteries if there’s a change in government. This area is very much in Labour’s sights as the recent buses policy announcement referenced the huge drop in bus use there. Perhaps they will be replaced with a new municipal.


    1. National Guidance on Bus Stops

      apparently there is national guidance on bus stop standards. I have not found it though.

      It applies 3 standards for bus stops, Platinum. Gold and silver


    2. Old data so not very meaningful. Probably the North is see larger cut but that’s because they had much better service than most of the South

      The areas they say were doing between have seen significant cuts to services in recent years


    3. Later data is from Annual bus statistics: year ending March 2022 (revised)

      In itself though is not very meaningful as it cover the post Covid period which for example show an 80% increase in England

      To get anything meaningful you need to compare those figures with the last full years figure before covid


  7. The running time nonsense in Crewe is unfortunately replicated in many other parts, not least of all London. Earlier this month I suffered the most appallingly slow journey on a “Flagship” NXWM X8 from Wolverhampton to Birmingham sporting attractive platinum branding. The normal daytime running time of 1hr 30m becomes 1hr 45m early afternoon, and in spite of a massive hold up between Wolverhamptom and Dudley we arrived four minutes early. The rest of the journey was painful to say the least, with extended waits (a total of 24 minutes combined!) at every timing point, but as so often, hitting the City Centre at the height of the evening rush hour, actually caused an eight minute late arrival as this excessive running time has not be correctly apportioned. This sorry state of affairs actually applies to other NatEx services in the region, but of course also applies in many other parts of the UK.

    Busy rush hour buses en route from Cheltenham to Tewkesbury, having to sit “awaiting Time” at Kingsditch (Sainsburys) just ten minutes after leaving Cheltenham is another such absurdity designed to put passengers off bus travel. There are many more!

    Ever since the Traffic Commissioners woke from their slumbers a decade ago, and rightly tightened up on slack timekeeping, common sense in many parts seems to have been abandoned, Operators, frozen with fear lest vehicles stray from this straitjacket regime, seem to err far too far on the side of caution with passengers now suffering some of the slowest journeys ever, which certainly applies in London under the contract system ( Manchester Residents beware!) . We constantly hear of the need and intention “to speed up bus journeys to attract people from cars”, but at this rate the reverse is happening.

    Sadly, the loss of passengers in the Potteries would not be reversed by a new Municipal operator, much as some would like to see it. There are all sorts of factors at play here, with many parts in both Hanley and Stoke losing industry and population. It was noted that after the West Coast route modernisation, and passenger numbers spiralled with the introduction of Virgin Pendalino trains, the one and only place that did not see numbers rise was Stoke-on-Trent.


    1. One problem is that buses cannot wait time at bus stops marked bus stop on the road. These have a maximum dwell time of two minutes, or as long as it takes to load passengers if greater than two minutes. As I assume the stops in Birmingham city centre are marked as stops, they cannot permit early arrivals. Wolverhampton has a bus station, so no issue. It would be interesting to know the markings on the stop at Crewe station.
      Some operators and highway authorities understand the legislations, some do not


    2. Slow journeys was definitely something I saw drive people away when I was a driver. Routes which had previously sometimes been a bit pushed if busy gained way too much extra time, and on one in particular people started waiting for a new service launched by another competing big group which served the same corridor on its way into the city was easily 5 minutes quicker into the city centre. As a driver it was embarrassing to have to waste so much time.
      On another cross-city service, a glut of buses in the early evening would arrive from terminus A and terminate at the last stop in the city centre, before looping around the block and starting again from the previous stop 12 minutes after it had just passed there, on service to terminus B. 3 minutes later (it was a 15 minute frequency service) the next bus would go past that stop, terminate at the last city centre stop, loop around, and start again for the rest of the journey. How anyone could have allowed that, I have no idea. People would have to get off then see you reappear, same driver, same bus, same route. Presumably the scheduler didn’t dare question whatever software they’d invested in…


  8. Since my comment on your last “Seen around”, it is relevant to report that things have moved on in Swainby, North Yorkshire.

    After 20 years with Abbots of Leeming, the contract for the 80 and 89 Northallerton- Stokesley has moved to Coatham Coaches. So no more out of date Covid notices and no more cash only and no tickets. Card payment taken and tickets issued! Free pass holders were required to tap their passes on the machine “so the Council knows how many people are travelling” the driver had to remind one elderly passenger!

    The main stops at Swainby actually served are, at last, on the registration and appear on Bustimes! And the shelter at that point displays the new Coatham Coaches timetable (although inside the adjacent public toilet is one for Abbots dated 2018 including the long gone X80 to Middlesbrough). Round the corner at the other bus stop (with sign and pole) in Black Horse Lane a new timetable has been squeezed in at an angle, alongside a Moorsbus timetable for….. 2015!

    Only slight downside of new arrangements is that the usual vehicle is a Sprinter minibus, 23 plate but a bit small for some journeys at the Northallerton end. It has an advertised standing capacity for just 7! Might need to be tested?


  9. Having been out and about I agree that that publicity for the London bus changes has been mixed and that this will cause some confusion next week. The loss of a direct bus link from Waterloo to Liverpool Street is a poor decision in my view as the W & C doesn’t run at weekends. Why are so many buses now running to Victoria and links through the city have been reduced whilst at the same time south London now has a bus terminating at Bart’s Hospital every 7-8 mins ? It isn’t even in the South London NHS trust area and will take forever to get there. The loss of a fast service to High Holborn via the Strand underpass is also a poor decision. Perhaps this could have been retained as a limited stop Red Arrow service to Bart’s Hospital from Waterloo enabling the 59 to be diverted elsewhere ? Central London’s bus network is being cut to pieces. Isn’t it time now to redraw the jigsaw puzzle completely ? Perhaps a brave and forward thinking Mayoral candidate might suggest that . Didn’t Jeffrey Archer once propose express bus routes ?


  10. If I interpret that capacity notice correctly, 9 people are expected to be able to stand in the wheel chair space when it not occupied by a wheel chair. I hope they are all friends and have something to hold onto! I also wonder whether the theoretical standing capacity should vary between the seasons to take account of everyone wearing thick winter coats rather than summer tee shirts, for example.


  11. If you want fun finding where your bus departs from try Croydon. Nowhere in the Town Centre is there a comprehensive list of bus stops. I eventually found the bus to Redhill lurking up a side street!


    1. Why is most of the bus industry like this and completely indifferent to their customers, the long suffering passengers? How can any industry act in this uncommercial manner and expect to survive?


  12. Interesting that you like the new Euston platform signs. I was concerned that the countdown to platform closure might add more pressure to the Euston Dash plus the possible conflict point with staff. I can’t let you through because the gate is ciosed. But the train is still there and doesnt go for another 2 minutes…


  13. One problem is that buses cannot wait time at bus stops marked bus stop on the road. These have a maximum dwell time of two minutes, or as long as it takes to load passengers if greater than two minutes. As I assume the stops in Birmingham city centre are marked as stops, they cannot permit early arrivals. Wolverhampton has a bus station, so no issue. It would be interesting to know the markings on the stop at Crewe station.
    Some operators and highway authorities understand the legislations, some do not. There is a variant of the bus stop cage marked as bus stand where longer dwells can be specified.


  14. I’m looking forward to Roger’s hopefully rescheduled visit to Guernsey. I’ve read that both Guernsey and Jersey report sustained passenger growth over several years. And I’ve often thought that local politicians in the shires wanting “London style” bus services should be better off looking towards the Channel Islands for more a more attainable model.


  15. Although this may seem like an April Fool from next month Birminghams main bus operator will become WEST MOBICO TRAVEL !!!!!


  16. The out of date notice in Leicester for roadworks on route 16 wasn’t even useful at the time – it states that buses will operate via Gwendolen Road but this is known to be (practically) impossible due to parking on both sides of the road so, in fact, buses ran along St Saviour’s Road (which runs parallel to Gwendolen Road but is more of a ‘major’ road).
    The same diversion was re-advertised in early 2023 but, once again, Gwendolen Road was not used!
    Mike T.


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