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More detail is needed on timetables

High speed train at Edinburgh Waverley.
High speed train at Edinburgh Waverley.

The invitation last month for ‘Those Who Know The Truth’ to tell us so that we all know what is going on has produced early results.

I previously said that the disadvantages of the original High Speed Trains (HSTs or InterCity 125s), as they have been running for the past 40 years, has been their slam doors and their toilet facilities.

I also said that I wondered what Scotrail would do about these features.

Ian McConnell, Scotrail Alliance’s Programmes and Transformation Director, has now written to say the following.

“When our InterCity trains enter service they will bring a step-change in travel between Scotland’s seven cities – and there won’t be a slam door or archaic toilet in sight.

“Our customers can look forward to fully refurbished trains, with an on-board buffet offering an enhanced selection of food and drink.”

So hurrah for Scotrail!

That all sounds really promising, and if it is accompanied by good marketing, there should be excellent results.

Talking of marketing, there are still serious deficiencies in the way that people can find out about bus times.

The information about bus services, as shown at bus stops, now amounts only to the times they leave that particular stop.

There is no information about the time they arrive at other points along the route.

And, worst of all, there is no information about the return times.

This information may be available online or by telephone, but buses are particularly useful to the elderly, many of whom are not computer-savvy, and to whom leaflet information is important.

Often these leaflets are available in libraries and tourist information centres, but one of the most useful sources of such information would surely be post offices.

While trains run during the whole of the waking day, buses tend only to run during the working day.

It would be all too easy to set off to somewhere only to find that you cannot get back until the following day.

The other difficulty I have found about bus timetables is that the buses are often needed to take children home from school in the middle of the afternoon.

As a result of this, the timetables are littered with notes saying, for example, ‘Non-schooldays only’.

This becomes even worse in areas where schools finish early on Fridays, which really makes a mess of the timetables.

The councils which provide financial support for some services might consider making those services more user-friendly, rather than requiring operators to pare them down to the cheapest possible method of operation.

The latter, of course, means that potential passengers will do everything they can to avoid having to use them.

This results in a vicious circle.

The original idea of council involvement was to make the services more attractive so that more people would be encouraged to use them.

If the councils are to do this, they must be underpinned by central government.

However, central government, to me, seems to be intent on eliminating such services, if possible, rather than encouraging them.

The councils have done great work in providing bus stops and display panels.

It is just a shame that currently these are not being used to their full potential.

John Wylde is the author of Integrated Transport – a Will-o’-the-wisp? This book is priced at £14.95, post paid and signed by the author. Also Experiments In Public Transport Operation, priced at £11.95. Order through the author’s website at www.john-wylde.co.uk or from Grieves, on the corner of Church Street, in Berwick.