Monthly Archives: September 2010


As I approached the bus stop in Stockbridge today I was struck by dread. “Should I pretend not to see anybody waiting and just carry on?”. “Should I pretend not to have heard the bell requesting the stop?”. “Perhaps I could apologise and say I didn’t hear the bell and pull up a little bit down the road”. These were the thoughts running through my mind as I spotted an irregular (thank God!) but known to me passenger waiting at the stop. What caused me so much dread? Garlic breath. This lady’s breath is so deadly she could be charged with genocide. Some people pop peanuts, I think this lady pops raw garlic cloves. I’m sure she must see the bus approaching and shove a couple of cloves into her mouth just to ‘freshen up’ her garlic breath. Despite being old enough to have a concessionary travel card she pays. Aaaargh. This extends the time she spends breathing all over me. For my part I pretend the offside mirror needs adjusting but simply putting my hand out of the open window to adjust it is not enough at this time, I put my whole head and upper torso outside as well!

When we got to Winchester and everyone was leaving the bus I dreaded her passing me so it was mirror adjusting time again. Then I heard her asking the times of the buses back. I blurted out “Sorry, I’m not sure of the Saturday timetable. Ask at the office with the blue door”. Thus I was able to get rid of her but inflicted her deadly breath on the Leading Drivers :-(

There were only three buses going back to Stockbridge, me in 35 minutes (knew she wouldn’t want that), one at 14:35, then me again at 16:05 So I spent the afternoon in sure and certain anticipation that she’d be catching the 16:05 and I’d be subjected to it all again. 16:05 came and she wasn’t there. Hooray! I assume she must have caught the 14:05 which was being driven by Dennis Dash (a regular commentator here). Did a lady with very bad garlic breath catch your bus?

Ticket design

When a driver is presented with an already printed ticket (return, daily, weekly etc) its validity needs to be checked otherwise anyone could just hop on a bus waving a bit of paper and get a free ride! There is only so much time a driver has time to do, so for me the most important check is the date. If it’s a return was it issued today? If a daily, weekly, monthly etc. ticket is it current? The next check I do is to verify that the ticket is of a valid type for the journey being boarded. If a return is it for this route. If daily, weekly, monthly etc is it of a valid type for the boarding and alighting destinations? There are lots more things which could be checked like does the serial number of the photo ID (if required) match the ticket serial number, verify that the passenger looks like the photo, check the ticket for signs of forgery or tampering etc but there is just not enough time to that. That’s a job for the Standards Controllers, Road Inspectors or whatever they’re called.

Of all the reasons for rejecting a ticket an incorrect date date is by far the most common. So why do the company make it so difficult to check the date? My first example is of a Wilts & Dorset ticket – this is a daily ticket but weekly tickets retain exactly the same format. Look at how large the ‘Issued’ date is in comparison to the ‘Valid until the end of’ date’. As you look at the ticket the much larger issued date jumps out at you and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve told someone the ticket has expired when it hasn’t :-( Whoever designed the ticket must have been totally unaware of how it would be read when in use.

And now my own company, Stagecoach, have made checking the date validity of a ticket more time consuming. Until now all period tickets have followed the date box format ‘From’ as the top line and ‘To’ as the bottom line. So, the driver automatically looks at the lower line to check the ticket is still valid (the driver has little interest in when it was issued). Here are some Goldriders showing the ‘From’ and ‘To’ format.

And here’s the new Student Gold ticket. ‘To’ is now the top line and ‘From’ the second line!!!! There are lots more period tickets which I could show but the common factor in then all is the ‘From’ ‘To’ format so this new ticket is the only one to formatted back to front. I wonder how many holders of these I’ll be telling that their ticket has expired because I read the bottom line as you do on every other ticket. If only somebody with half a brain did ticket design.

Those involved in ticket design could do worse that taking a close look at a Road Tax disc which gives visual priority to the most important factor and less prominence to other information which, whilst being necessary, is of lesser immediate importance.

‘Ambitious’ bus ticket giveaway

The UK’s biggest bus companies First Group, Arriva and Stagecoach are offering a free ride to passengers who board a bus instead of taking their car.
First Group chief executive Sir Moir Lockhead explains the environmental motivation of the initiative.

Radio 4, Today Programme, 20 Sept 2010

I’ve not seen any other indications that Stagecoach, First or Arriva are giving tickets away so did a Google search using the term free bus tickets to find out more. The top search result directed me toward free bus travel as a concession, that’s not what the story is about. The second result looked more promising “FirstGroup Buses – Free Offer – Leave the car, take the bus for free for a week in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Chester, Greater Manchester, York, Sheffield, Leeds and Plymouth” pointed to the aptly named, I clicked on the link and read ….

And that was it! The following links were all about concessionary fares, children under 5 going free, a free university link etc. Nothing to support an ‘ambitious ticket giveaway’. It’d be nice if Leon Daniels of FirstGroup, who publishes his own blog, could expand how the free tickets can be obtained and how FirstGroup, Arriva and Stagecoach are collaborating on the distribution of free tickets.

Megabus accident in the US

There’s been an horrific accident involving a Megabus in the US – 4 killed and 24 injured. The MailOnline has the story.

When I read exactly where the accident had occurred it sent a shiver down my spine, I know that road and have driven it quite a few times, I know the bridge! I rushed over to which is the website of the local paper, The Post-Standard, guessing there’d be more information there. Here’s a video report from that site.