FixMyTransport receives lots of queries from people who have been unable to find up-to-date information about transport services, so here is short guide to planning your journey.
Traveline is almost always the best place to start. It provides comprehensive and impartial information about all forms of public transport, thanks to a partnership between local authorities and transport operators. The site operates as 11 regional services, with journey planning and timetables provided for each region. This does make for variations, particularly with how timetables are presented.
The best Traveline regions in this respect are Scotland, East Midlands, East Anglia, Southeast, London and South West. Each provides full downloadable timetables, with links from the journey planner.
Northern Ireland has timetables but they are only accessible through a search. Yorkshire, North West, the West Midlands, and Wales provide short extracts, not complete timetables, with all but Wales linked to from their journey planners. Traveline North East simply has a list of links to external websites.
Traveline also run the NextBuses service, providing bus stop departure times across the whole country; realtime information where available, otherwise scheduled times. Nextbuses can be viewed on a mobile phone, but there are also downloadable apps which can display this information.
Multi-mode travel planning across the whole country can also be accessed via the government’s Transport Direct website. While Traveline covers bus, coach, train and ferry journeys, Transport Direct also covers routes for car, foot and cycle.
National Rail Enquiries
The rail industry runs National Rail Enquiries which provides a journey planner, real time station arrival and departure information, fare queries and is linked to external sites selling tickets.
Transport information on the go
Journey planning on a mobile phone can be more difficult. There’s no mobile-optimised version of Traveline, although there is a DirectGov branded version of the Transport Direct travel planner.
Google Maps incorporates a public transport travel planner but this only covers certain areas (currently East Anglia, East Midlands, South East, London and Scotland).
Timetables and fares
Most bus operators publish timetables on their websites, the major operators being Arriva, First Group, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach. Out of date timetables are a common complaint on FixMyTransport.
We’ve noticed that the smaller the operator, the less likely they are to remember to refresh their online information when routes or times change. Another source of confusion can be third party websites, which have gathered timetables but have never updated them.
Our advice? It is always best to use the sources listed above, which are more likely to be accurate. Also, many cities have their own public transport websites, so it’s worth checking your local council site for links.
In general there is very little information published on websites about bus fares. This is something we’d very much like to see changed – why should it be such a secret how much change you need to have in your pocket?
If you agree with us, you could start a FixMyTransport campaign. It’s a simple request, and one that your local operator may well comply with.
Note that this post was written in September 2012 but, of course, will date fast. Please post a comment if you see anything that needs amending.