14 May 2019

A Mediterranean Double Take, Railway Scheduling & Bus Open Data

Monday - A Mediterranean Double Take

A friend uploaded the above photo to his Instagram story today and I initially assumed it to be a generic Transport for London bus stop flag. Yet I knew he was holidaying in my second home, Gibraltar and soon spotted that all was not what it seemed. Upon closer inspection it can be seen that was one immediately assumes to be the roundel is in fact the letter G and the tiles show bus services operating to the east of the Rock. It's quite a clever take on London's bus stop infrastructure and demonstrates how keen Gibraltarians are to 'keep close' to the UK in all manner of their affairs.
     I last visited Gibraltar thirteen months ago and undertook a full review of the current condition of the transport network there. Click here to have a read. I'm rather impressed at this development because the main criticism I had of the bus network in Gibraltar, as written in my summary article last year, is that all bus stops are named are shown on all bus timetables yet the bus stops themselves do not bare their name which makes matters rather confusing to travellers. This has now been rectified with the TfL-esque flags.

Thursday - Railway Scheduling

I was fortunate to catch sight of a document that detailed meal break parameters for a local train operating company's guards. I've never seen such a complicated document. These parameters aren't new, of course, and have been signed off by both the company and the relevant unions. Here are just a couple of sections:
     Max time worked without a break: 5:55, with the exception of turns up to 5:59 that will have not break and may be extended to 6:15 provided that train working content is no more than 5:40.
     Personal Need Break (PNB) allowances: Turns in excess of 9:30 to have 1 x 40-min PNB or 1 x 30-min PNB and 1 x 15-min PNB exclusive of walking time, between the 2nd & 9th hours. Turns between 7:01 and 9:30 to have 1 x 30-min PNB exclusive of walking time, between the 2nd & 9th hours. Turns between 6:16 and 7:00 to have 1 x 20-min PNB exclusive of walking time, between the 2nd hour and 5:50. 'Out & Back' diagrams up to and including 7:40 to only have a short break (SB), inclusive of walking time. Turns with a block working greater than 5:55 between start of diagram and start of PNB or end of PNB and end of diagram to have a SB in addition to any PNB. There are to be no trailing PNBs/SBs (i.e. tagged onto the end of diagrams). There will be no SBs diagrammed within the first 2 hours of any turn.
     And so it continues. It's a far cry from parameters concerning other passenger transport industries. Though unlike these others, rail staff are generally considered safety critical and robust procedures need to be in place to ensure front-line staff are sufficiently rested before, after and during their working days. Though I can't help thinking how alert and aware a bus driver needs to be while transporting 80+ school children on board their double-decker down a single-track Lincolnshire road with dykes on either side...

Saturday - Bus Open Data

One of the main articles in this week's CBW concerned the DfT's intention to release open data on behalf of the bus industry. This got me thinking about the one major area where the bus/coach industry lags behind that of the railway. Some local bus firms consider open data an intrusion, though nothing released is considered commercially sensitive; passengers wouldn't be able to see revenue for a specific bus service, for example. This, of course, also applies to the rail industry, which is steps ahead of its road transport compadre since Network Rail released open data a decade ago, which spawned very impressive and incredibly useful sites such as Realtime Trains et al. More recently, websites have harvested data that shows the location of trains on diagrammatic maps, where possible. Some even show the aspects displayed by signals and the route set by the signallers. Rail's advantage here is undoubtedly aided by the network being regulated and a common infrastructure provider being responsible for the timely signalling and, of course, allocating paths in the first place. It's far easier to group this level of detail together which can be harnessed by suitably knowledgable enthusiasts that know their way around a website.
     The government's aim is to ensure all vehicles working public bus and coach services are trackable, using current datasets, and for this to be viewable on many different platforms. Currently, this information is offered on a sporadic basis dependent on operator and their willingness to develop an app to display the detail. Locally, Brylaine Travel has led this particular field, followed by Stagecoach East Midlands and literally weeks later EYMS. While these operators undoubtedly provide a large percentage of bus services in the LEYTR area, there is yet one simple location where everything can be found; you need to download each operator's app. Open data should help ensure this goal can be achieved, provided enthusiastic folk are out there to cobble it all together such as Tom Cairns has with Realtime Trains.

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