The August 2011 copy of the Chartered Institute of Transport’s* journal lists the finalists in its annual awards for excellence. There are few bus operators present. Of three finalists under the category “Information Management” comes Lothian Buses from Edinburgh, Scotland. I dare say this is because of whizzo technical solutions such as its bus tracker & Airlink audio announcements. I genuinely wish them well because it would be good to see the few bus-related entries getting somewhere. One of the two other finalists in this category is Palletforce, for instance. The bus industry tends to prefer its own awards.
But what of ordinary information?
I had the honour of dropping in on Edinburgh for the recent marriage of Michael Tindall & Zara Phillips**. In spite of visits to Perth, I’d rarely ventured into Edinburgh. Now, I was heading south by car from Perth and didn’t realise the park & ride as signed off the dual carriageway north of the Forth was intended for Edinburgh. I thought it was just for Dunfermline or Inverkeithing. Well, the signs don’t actually say. There would be something near Edinburgh. Wrong. That was my first mistake. Had I arrived by public transport, I may have had an easier time.
Edinburgh bus stationI took a map from the foyer of the shopping centre under my chosen car park and optimistically headed off to something labelled the bus station. This turned out to be more of a coach station but with a handful of country services. There was no information within to be had (or if there was, I didn’t notice it or find it).
It took me quite some time to track down the Lothian Buses office. I should’ve asked a driver much sooner than I did. Inside was a lengthy queue (of mainly young people) circling the office. It was no doubt flourishing but the queue wasn’t moving. The paper timetables were in the centre and it was difficult to push past the queue to see which I needed. I was really looking for a map, plan or even index showing which bus goes where and from where. A combined timetable book would’ve been nice but I knew that would be optimistic.
I found none of these but an array of individual route leaflets. It wasn’t long before I gave up in the face of several walls of information. I don’t think the queue moved at all during my visit and I felt that the time might be better spent plugging in my satnav rather than trying to figure out where to go.
Yes, I know I came unprepared. Yes, I know I should’ve visited the Lothian Buses website well in advance. But I wasn’t and didn’t. Not everyone will plan in advance or will think to do so. In contrast, what’s it like in the other capitals in Great Britain, London and Cardiff, Wales. Information in London is easily obtained but then again tube stations tend to act as an obvious focus. In Cardiff, city bus times are available in a single booklet from the Cardiff Bus office opposite the bus station (or they were when last I was there).
* I mean the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, of course. ** Don’t be too impressed. I got as far as watching policemen on the royal mile raising drain covers and peering inside (the coppers, not me).