Better Bus Rides on Paperless Bus Guides in Oldham and Stockport

The days of the dead tree bus timetable could be numbered in years to come as smartphones and tablets become the norm for today’s passengers. Instead of rows and rows of bus timetables, passengers could scan a QR code for their desired service.

If you think it sounds far-fetched and several years before its time, you are wrong because it is happening right now in Stockport and Oldham. From today [02 June 2021], Transport for Greater Manchester is trialling paperless bus guides at the two bus stations. Passengers could go to a QR code next to their desired service and the timetable will appear on their smartphone.

Passengers can point their device at a TfGM Travelshop’s timetable rack or at one of the stands in Stockport and Oldham bus stations. If the passenger wants a paper copy of their Bus Guide, they can ask at the Travelshop counter where one of the assistant can print a copy. This means passengers without smartphones can still request a paper timetable during TfGM Travelshop opening hours.

How it works

1. At a Transport for Greater Manchester Travelshop

  • Passenger pops into a TfGM Travelshop;
  • Passenger goes to (now empty) timetable rack and finds the QR code next to chosen service;
  • (For arguments sake) Our passenger wants to get the 343 to Carrbrook and turns on the QR Code reading app on their smartphone;
  • Passenger points device to the 343 route’s QR code. Within a few seconds, our passenger gets the latest timetable for their 343 route and heads towards G stand with five minutes to go till departure.

2. At a bus stand

  • Passenger walks up to G stand for the 343. Familiar with the times already, our passenger wants to see if the 1750 journey will leave at 1750.
  • Passenger walks up to the board at G stand and finds the QR code next to 343.
  • After scanning the smartphone with a QR code reader app, the real time information says that the 1750 journey will arrive soon. Due to congestion, it says that its arrival time will be five minutes late.
  • Our passenger sits for a few minutes till a Stott’s Tours minibus or midibus appears – often behind an 84 bound for Uppermill.

COVID changes

With the pandemic, there has been more frequent timetable changes to allow for social distancing. In many cases, more often than four times a year. During previous lockdowns, frequencies have been cut to reflect reduced demand and staff levels. This is what Transport for Greater Manchester’s Customer Director Stephen Rhodes had to say:

“While the pandemic and associated government guidance have presented challenges, it has also been an opportunity to reassess how we can best provide information to our customers, as well as a chance to innovate and make use of new technologies.

“The paperless timetable pilot will mean that, as we welcome more people back on to our public transport network, customers can access the most accurate information from our travel shops and bus stations, making their return as smooth and stress-free as possible.

“It will also be a more sustainable method of delivering customer information, substantially reducing paper waste.

“The pilot will be conducted in two locations and customer usage data and anecdotal feedback will be monitored closely throughout the trial in order to gauge success or changes needed before a roll-out to all travel shops is considered.”

The trials at Oldham and Stockport bus stations build on a previous trial at 46 key bus stops in Greater Manchester. This took place at the end of last year. The Oldham and Stockport trial will be in place from today up until the 30 September.

If successful, this could be rolled out to all bus stations in Greater Manchester and all stops in the near future. Though the Bus Guide in its ‘traditional’, 1975 sense may be survived as an Adobe PDF file, there still needs to be some access to paper timetables in our public libraries. Also on boards as a backup if the network fails – or in some parts of our City Region where mobile internet access is patchy.

Another thing that needs to be taken into account is how many people in Greater Manchester have smartphones. How many within our City Region have no desire to own one or cannot afford one at all? As for bus fanatics wishing to compare 2021’s bus timetables with those in ten years time, it’s time to boost that cloud space on your digital devices and hope (fingers crossed) they are still readable in 2031.

S.V., 02 June 2021.

4 thoughts on “TfGM’s Paperless Bus Timetable Trials

    1. Hi Jim,

      If you load an Adobe PDF version of a TfGM Bus Guide, it is an awkward experience to say the least. Compared with finding out on Google Maps, it is unwieldy on two counts: firstly, in trying to zoom in to the text; and secondly, the amount of data it would use up on your mobile internet allowance.

      Apart from that, smartphones make for lousy bookmarks. Especially whilst compared with a Greater Manchester Transport/GMPTE/TfGM Bus Guide, which is a nice size for inserting inside a paperback book (used ClipperCards were good for that purpose too). That’s before I say how good ClipperCard holders were for carrying combs.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  1. Got to admit they are very difficult to read on a smart phone, a lot of faffing about trying to scroll to the page you need, and as for the actual times, zoom in and hope for the best you’ve landed it right lol. Paper copies are so much quicker to access the info you need. No turning on the phone, signing in, loading of apps etc. Hope they don’t get rid of bus station stand and bus stop timetables.

    Like

    1. Hi Leeds,

      I hope paper timetable displays still have a role in our bus stations. Firstly there needs to be a paper backup in case the network fails. Secondly, as you said, it is a lot quicker to check against a timetable board for the time of your next bus. A 100% digital approach would alienate passengers that have no means for a smartphone. Finding out about the next 343 shouldn’t be jeopardised by being able to have a fully charged device or having to have a smartphone by default.

      From my experience at Oldham Central Bus Station yesterday, I scanned the code for my 343 bus back home. I knew the times anyway, being a semi-regular user of that route, though decided to check their digital timetable. Though the times didn’t show within the website view, it gave you an option to load the timetable itself. Still a long way from the all-singing all-dancing real time info that you can get on BusTimes.org.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s