Thursday, 22 September 2011

Watford, Weird & Wonderful [4]

Tackling Traveline's Technology

Blogs based (loosely) on a business trip: 
         Thursday 15th September 2011          

fbb was, regular blog readers will remember, on a somewhat unusual route to Watford for a business meeting. He chose to travel via Clapham Junction, Shepherds Bush, White City, Wood Lane, Baker Street and Watford stations, where his contact would meet him with a chauffeur driven limo; actually the office van!
Of course, you cannot read the extract above, so the full zone map is available (here).

So, to allow a journey planner to do its stuff, fbb tried Woking to Watford on the Transport for London [TfL] site. We are told repeatedly in the media that this is one of the most used journey planners in the galaxy and a huge percentage of its users are "satisfied" with its performance.

So here goes ...
... but not awfully well!
After a time consuming, (and quite unnecessary, the names entered are correct and spelled correctly) trawl through TfL's lists we can try again.
It is unfortunate for the electrons that the only station called simply "Watford" is the least convenient for the location called "Watford" but everyone except TfL knows it as "Watford Met". One day, we are promised through trains from the Metropolitan Line to Watford High Street and Junction; at which point Watford "Met" will disappear in a puff of blue smoke. But, nevertheless, the station is still called "Watford" ...
... and that is what fbb correctly searched for, unsuccessfully.

So here's an answer; from Woking to Shepperton by bus, then:-
But, wouldn't it be better to go by train from Woking? Of course, but Woking is not in the TfL area, so we cannot be told about it. Some TfL buses go there, so you can discover them, but big South West Trains services are not under the fearsome control of  Boris the Blue, so he won't tell you about them.

Surely the TfL journey planner should, at least, include all national rail? 

Watford Station also befuddles Traveline. It wants to offer you everything within a few miles of Watford with "station" somewhere in its title.
But once this is corrected (again an unnecessary task as the original input was correct), answers come thick and fast. 
This one is OK, although there is a mammoth "travolator" trek to the Jubilee Underground platforms at Waterloo ...
... Waterloo to Baker Street is easier in some ways. But Traveline seems determined to take you via Waterloo. Trying an enquiry from Clapham Junction ...
... Traveline grudgingly offers the above "roundabout" route. It also seems to think that there is a "centre" to Clapham Junction which is, of course, located at Battersea. No, fbb does not fully understand; presumably (some?) folk now refer to the area round the station as a town in its own right.

Understandably, then, fbb's chosen route is outside the remit of a Journey Planner. So it's back to printed timetables. To achieve his desired route fbb might need:-

South West Trains leaflets for services to Clapham Junction
Overground leaflet for services via Shepherds Bush
Southern Trains leaflet for services via Shepherds Bush
     OR the handy 3263 page GB Rail Timetable at £16 
Underground times for Central line (not published)
Underground times for H&C line (not published) 
Leaflet for Metropolitan trains to Watford 

BUT, it's all available on-line, of course. Absolutely; too true. 

Just you try it; but allow a good hour or so. And before you tell the chubby one that underground trains are so frequent that you don't need a timetable, do bear in mind that there are connections to be made so some easily accessible source of "running time" might help.

That's called a "timetable", TfL.

As usual, it's easy when you know but fiendishly difficult if you don't. And there's an awful lot of people out there who fear travel because they don't.

Tomorrow we actually arrive at Watford, by the desired "S" (for Sausage?) train, and ON TIME! 

P.S. The directors of the Metropolitan Railway intended to run their line to Watford Town Centre. The land was "set aside" and a terminus station was partially built. But the money ran out and it never got there! The proposed station building is now the "Moon Under Water" pub, with a nice cast panel on the roof line to display the station name.
It's on Watford High Street, so we might have had TWO Watford High Street Stations. Help! That would have really blown the journey planner fuses.

Next blog : Friday September 23rd  

5 comments:

  1. Traveline Southeast has an optional box to "avoid central London". If ticked, this offers route combinations such as Woking-Clapham Jn-Harrow & Wealdstone-Kenton-walk to Northwood Park-Met to Watford; Woking-Clapham Jn-Watford Jn-bus to Watford Met; and Woking-Clapham Jn-Finchley Rd & Frognal-walk to Finchley Rd-Met to Watford.
    That last one looks pretty convenient to me.

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  2. Thanks, anonymous. I was aware, but previous experience provokes "polite suspicion". The walk between Kenton and Northwick Park used to be signposted. Is it still? If not it is not good for the unwary. Likewise the Finchley Road interchange is OK if you turn in the right direction. So I must remember to lug my laptop, blackberry or peapod with me to follow all this on the ground!!

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  3. "Some TfL buses go there"

    There are no TfL buses in Woking. Just Surrey CC routes that are run into London on Local Service permits, and the journey planner seems to know about these even though they play no part in the TfL transport system...

    At least the 557 to Shepperton one actually works (even if the map at Woking shows the bus leaving via the wrong road). I've just tried it, and the Shepperton option was third in the list.

    The first option was to catch the 459 to Byfleet and New Haw station, then catch a train to London. The second was to catch the 459 to West Byfleet station and then do the same. Both maps showed the 459 bus stopping right outside the respective stations at the usual bus stops.

    But, and it's a big but!! Here's the correct, actual Abellio route map of the 459: http://www.abellio.co.uk/ufiles/file/route_maps/Route%20459%20Route%20Map.pdf

    The two stations aren't shown on the map. But it's not Abellio's fault. The fact is, service 459 doesn't go anywhere near either Byfleet & Hew Haw or West Byfleet!!!

    So quite where TfL have got their info from I've no idea... they seem to think the 459 goes a completely different way to what it actually does!

    Can't believe it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you Anonymous. Your comments, yet again, reinforce my unease at relying on Journey Planners. It also confirms the illogical nature of boundaries.
    Sadly, Transport Defunct is just a "clone" of Traveline bits joined together - not always very well.
    Xephos, I understand, is available and ready to be rejuvenated for about 10% of the cost of the other two!
    The difference between TfL routes and those that enter the TfL area but aren't TfL services is yet another example of unhelpfulness in definition.

    ReplyDelete
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