Monday, 23 August 2010


Do you know the Transport for London (TfL) definition of a bus running on time? Apparently TfL-speak has it that a bus is on time if it is not more than 2 minutes early, and not more than 5 minutes late. Now - slightly late (2 or 3 minutes) can be understandable; but "on time" if it's early? Consider the following.

A passenger needs to take two buses to get from his home to work. Each route runs every 20 minutes. The two routes meet at a point where his first bus is due to arrive 4 minutes before the second is timed to leave there - 8.02 and 8.06. Sounds reasonable. However, one morning the first arrived 3 minutes late at 8.05, and the second left 2 minutes early at 8.04. He missed his connection despite both buses being "on time" according to TfL.

To any passenger a bus is early if it leaves before the scheduled time, and late if it leaves after. Why should it be different for the crackpot management of TfL?


  1. I am reminded of a footnote printed at the bottom of a Railway Timetable displayed at Victoria Station, Mumbai (Bombay) , India.

    "The time shown is not the time at which the train will depart, it is the time before which the train will definitely not depart".

    It is extremely annoying when connections are missed and the usual "helpful" advice given when one complains is that "There are usually alternative routes available and schedules are designed to keep waiting times to a minimum". Not very useful if the "minimum" is half-an-hour.

    At one time buses used to wait at railway stations to deliver passengers to a train and collect passengers coming off the train. It is most irritating to walk out of a station entrance to find the doors of the bus you require just closing.

  2. As I have said before, I am usually late, and one day I will be so permanantly.

  3. Yes, the late - but also lamented!

  4. Perhaps we should meet up some time, Morris, and discuss this at (possibly considerable) length over a pint or three ...

    I grew up on the boundary of the, then, London Transport area and bought the excellent 'Complete Local Area Timetable' that LT published at quarterly intervals. For many years it was my public transport bible and always contained the following caveat (as far as I can remember):

    Whilst every effort is made to operate the advertised service, the operators do not guarantee that their services will operate in accordance with them, or at all. London Transport will not be responsible for any damage,delay or inconvenience caused by reason of any inaccuracy in the timetables or maps.

    Of course, in those days, we all had mechanical watches, so ±2 minutes wasn't an unreasonable error to contend with - but I did always ensure that my watch was corrected against the accurate electric clock at home before I went out in the evening ...

    The bane of my life in those days was early running last buses ...

    ... I recall being in Upminster one night and missing the last 370 to Grays, 'phoning Grays garage to complain and getting conformation that the call was taking place by LT time SIX minutes before the bus was due to depart! (Fortunately I had an alternative option by rail but, had I wanted to get to an intermediate point, I would have been stuffed!)

    In the days of British Rail, it was reasonable to expect connections to be maintained but, in this modern day and age, no operator is going to jeopardise its performance target because of a delay elsewhere ...

    As far as buses are concerned, Morris is 'fortunate' to know exact timings for his buses - or he uses low frequency services - because TfL prefer the vague "about every so many minutes" approach and refuse to publish detailed timetables - though they are available if you know where to look ...

    ... strange that it needs a lot of individual work and effort to provide information that TfL deliberately suppress ...

  5. The link in my previous post produced a 'link to long' error message for some reason!

    I will try again ...

    and hope it works this time ...