Please Pardon, Plymouth

fbb has had an email from Laira (that would be local lass Laira Tamerton-Foliat) pointing out that the GoAhead CityBus enquiry office in still open; but recent staff reductions mean that it is closed at lunchtime – when office workers would want to pop out and enquire.
Sorry for closing it down but that is what your naive blogger was told!
From Our Own Correspondent
Julian writes …
I had forgotten about the free weekend offer on Traws Cambria, assume it’s still going. As you say they don’t seem to be wanting to shout the results from the rooftops.I had forgotten about the free weekend offer on Traws Cambria, assume it’s still going.
There is no mention of the scheme on-line, so it must have ended without comment!

Ditto Cornwall. When all this started a couple of years ago the tendered network possibly doubled in size and then along came cheap fares. And again they are not shouting about it. You would think the Dft would be sharing results as what has happened there should be a pattern for what may happen in the rest of England with the £2 fare. My guess is that results are not promising.

On the subject of the £2 fare, it’s now been extended to past the next election. Whoever wins is NOT going to put up the nations bus fares so that’s with us for the next 6 years, possibly adjusted for inflation.

Interesting thought. Will Mr Starmer (it might be Andy Burnham by then!)  have the guts to dramatically increase fares for the down-trodden Northerner or the slightly less down-trodden Labour voters further south? Would he be brave enough to cut the cap – i.e. take us back to full fare?

And It’s All On Line – Yet Again
fbb has been musing over the standard of publicity and presentation between two giants of the retail trade. On one hand there is Marks & Spencers, seemingly on the up after a bit of a slide into the Slough of Despond that is today’s “retail sector”. 

On the other hand, we have the attitude on delivery style and customer service of the UK bus industry.

We begin with M & S and their web site, one of the areas that has been improved as part of their rejuvenation project. Now fbb is not a great on-line shopper for the stuff M & S sells. Model railways, yes; books occasionally but never suits and undies!

There are the glorious and tempting “advert” promotions …

… but across the top of the very first page we get a search box for individual products and a list of general headings for the equally general enquirer.

fbb clicked on “Food and Wine”. 

Now that is a real surprise! There is a lot more Wine than Food!!

But, again, across the top of the page is a series of ten little pictures.
fbb looked at Party Food (another surprise!) but the Dragon Sushi “things” …

… will need to be collected from the fbb’s nearest branch. But they do look yummy and very yummy all at once!

The more serious point is that fbb, as a first time visitor of the M & S web site found his way round very easily.
That is how a web site should work.

Pleasing Potential Pulverbatch Passengers?
It’s south by south west of Shrewsbury …

… as our readers will all know? Maybe?

Just supposing fbb wanted to go there? Google maps guides us to a bus stop replete with lavish and welcoming facilities and an easy to read timetable display.

Two sources should be reliable, namely Google maps …

… and Traveline.

Neither of these services offers a complete picture. Getting a timetable out of Google maps involves a tedious trail back to the operator’s web site. 

There are no maps, these days, in Traveline.
But you might be brave and seek full information on the Operator’s web site.
How does it compare with M & S, esteemed retailer of all good things?

If you know the answer (546) it is straightforward. If you are going to one of the two terminal points (Shrewsbury and Pulverbatch) it is nearly a doddle.

But maybe you are not IN Shrewsbury; maybe you are not entirely sure where Pulverbatch is. The ideal organisation to help you ought to be there local authority, Shropshire. They once had an excellent bus web site.

But the county has simply given up.

Most enquirers are NOT wanting complex journey planners; most enquirers do NOT need “technology”; most enquirers do NOT want screens of advertorial clutter – they simply to know where their but runs and what time it is due!

So a good index, a good map and a full set of timetables is straightforward, will fulfill most needs and costs very little to set up and keep up to date.
How does Arriva natch up to these simple requirements as shown very well by M & S.

Users are pushed towards a journey planner but can find timetables with a struggle …

… (including the 546 to Pulverbatch) …

… but the map is useless. There is no network map.

It works adequately because Arriva has only one 546 in its catalogue. But supposing you were told to look for a service 1?
Here is Arriva’s pages in response to a search for “service 1”..

Just feast your unbelieving eyes on all the services numbered 1 operated by Arriva. And many that aren’t numbered 1.

What Arriva needs is a good set of maps, a well designed but simple index and a look-up list of timetables.
It needs to be simple to access, like the M & S web site. But it isn’t.
But, IF our enquirer is VERY LUCKY indeed, he/she might come across this note, buried deep in Arriva’s cluttered web site.
Shrewsbury Services 544 and 546
From Saturday 2nd December

From Saturday 2nd December we will be making service changes in Shrewsbury.
Route 544 Shrewsbury – Little Lyth
Route 546 Shrewsbury – Pulverbatch
After our last bus on Saturday 2nd December 2023, Arriva will no longer be running these services. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers who have travelled on routes 544 and 546 over the years. 

These services will be replaced by “Shropshire Connect On Demand” – FIND OUT MORE HERE
Surely something as significant as this should appear WITH the timetable?
fbb clicked “FIND OUT MORE” – and got this

The only fact an outsider might understand is this:-

Maybe not very understandable.

Try on-line “Connect On Demand“.

There were plenty of options …

… but one looked promising, a Connect on Demand for Shropshire.
A new pilot on-demand bus service is to begin operating in an area to the southwest of Shrewsbury this autumn – with plans in place to roll the service out across the county as part of Shropshire Council’s commitment to reinvigorate public transport in Shropshire.

Operated by Shropshire Council, the Connect On-Demand service will replace the under threat 20 (Shrewsbury to Radbrook), 544 (Shrewsbury to Lyth Hill) and 546 (Shrewsbury to Pulverbatch) bus services which are fully funded by the council but have, over a period of time, seen a reduction in passengers.

The new pilot service will operate from 7.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday, from September, with people able to book via app or by phone. More details will be announced nearer the time.

The service will pick-up and drop-off at locations within the pilot zone, including Radbrook shopping centre, Meole Brace retail park, and doctors’ surgeries. There will also be additional drop-off and pick up points at Shrewsbury bus and railway stations, and The Square.

So, putting the information together we have
Staring in September
Soft launch 6th, 13th, 20th November
Full service 27th November
Arriva 244 246 die on 2nd December
Full service launch 4th December
And don’t forget to type in FREETEST23 to get your free ride -although we aren’t telling you where to type it.
Somewhere there is a map of the new service – or part of it – and, of course, Roger French has already been for a ride.

His conclusion, blogged yesterday, repeats what he has said before about these demand responsive wonders.

As Rog says: it would be so much simpler to go to a bus stop with your timetable leaflet in hand, pay the driver and know when your bus would go and come back, That is all the technology you need.

But People from Pulverbatch will be Profoundly Puzzled and Probably Put Off Proceeding as Passengers. 
If it is too complicated (which it is) and too hard to understand (which it is) the dear folk of Pulverbatch will simply not travel.
Indeed when the Government money runs out (that’s your money and fbb’s) they won’t be able to travel because Shropshire will refuse to subsidise a replacement “proper” bus because of “a decline in passenger numbers“.
But a little note of positivity and rarity from Mr. French. In his blog he reports that one other passenger joined his outward ride to Pulverbatch. Usually he travels alone when he samples these services.
If only Marks & Spencer ran the public transport in the UK or, if not that far, helped the industry make a simple information web site.
fbb will design it!
Until then it is …

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 11th November 
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