Confession time: when I was a teenager or even earlier I used to revel in the sort of timetables that were complicated by and covered in letters and symbols.
Hants & Dorset’s traffic staff excelled at this particular craft, peppering their timetable matrices with circles, hearts, crosses, daggers, double daggers and squares.
There were more codes here than at Bletchley Park.
For me, the more the merrier. I was too young to realise that I was very much in the minority and that few people actually understood simple let alone cluttered timetables. Even when I had the privilege of working on some of those very timetables, my view didn’t change, not straightaway.
But when acting commercially there comes an appreciation that simpler is better. So it was that today’s More from Wilts & Dorset timetables, for example, are largely straightforward and comprehensible but even as recently as 10 years ago this actually was not always the case.
I came to know that certain symbols tended to mean the same thing. So, for example, the classic cross-in-circle Å always meant ‘Schooldays only’. No need for the modern SDO or Sch.
H&D was not alone in using these standards symbols. Most territorial operators seemed to have them, especially from the Tilling stable. So, Western National used them, too. And not just symbols. There was an accepted convention for journeys that operated on certain days of the week and nothing strayed from it:
M = Mondays
T = Tuesdays
W = Wednesdays
Th = Thursdays
F = Fridays
S = Saturdays
Su = Sundays
Thus, TThFS always meant a journey operated on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and NTTh not Tuesdays or Thursdays. It’s a convention that many still follow.
But not everyone. Thanks to Plymothian Transit, here’s a timetable for the special service 777. Note that code HF means Thursdays and Fridays only; and that WH is Wednesdays and Thursdays only. Here, H signifies Thursdays. If you think that strange, and I rather do, then those readers who’ve been with me for several years will recall W&D used ‘F’ to mean something entirely different to Fridays only.
I put all this down to a gradual loss over time of scheduling and traffic experience, a contraction in trained staff. But is this loss of respect for the past really an issue? I think it is. Th for Thursday made sense then and it does so now. Using F for something other than Fridays only might not be the most heinous of crimes but it may result in someone being caught out.