Christmas and New Year Timetables
Public Transport services operate adjusted timetables over the Christmas and New Year period. The pattern of services vary considerably around the UK but the following is a very approximate guide to the type of changes that need to be considered:
|Christmas Eve||Finish early evening|
|Christmas Day||No service|
|Boxing Day||Limited special timetables||Normal Service|
|days between||Saturday level of service|
|New Year's Eve||Finish early evening|
|New Year's Day||No or Limited service|
|2 January||Normal service||No or Limited service|
The traveline Concordat that each region has signed requires Bank Holiday services to be on the regional database two weeks before the Bank Holiday. Some Traveline regions try to get their data in place earlier in December because enquiries for Christmas services start from the beginning of December. See a sample schedule of preparation deadlines.
In England and Wales the bus registration regulations only require operators to give 21 days notice of the changes. This is not sufficient notice for traveline to process the data and so meeting the Concordat requirements is dependent upon having good cooperation with bus operators and local authority contracting departments to encourage them to decide well in advance on what levels of service they are going to operate. Operators may be trying to wait to see when shops are going to open and what sports events will be taking place. However if they delay their services may not be properly publicised.
In Scotland the bus registration regulations require that full notice (56 days) is given of Christmas and New Year changes and these are often included in the main registration of the service.
Many regions alter their data in advance of receiving final confirmation from operators. This enables the journey planner to give a better indication of the levels of service that will operate and is refined if and when more precise information is received.
Obviously Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall on different days of the week each year and this means that the exact pattern of alterations varies and this influences the way that the data will be enterred into the timetable data systems.
Different systems operate in different ways. The TransXchange data structure enables journeys to be individually dated and share journey pattern data that describes the route. This can reduce the size of the data that otherwise can grow very considerably over the Christmas/New Year period.
Some systems provide a table so that the revised pattern of service can be listed for each route and each day.
The position of data in each region prior to the Christmas and New Year period is given on Transport Direct.
We now know from monitoring the situation over several year that overall success requires that three streams of activity are successful:
- Technical - some systems run slowly under the weight of extra data. The regions concerned have raised this with suppliers and in some cases higher spec computers have been recommended. Where the processing of data has taken longer or has failed then the regions need to be sure that their suppliers are not going to undermine all the effort in processing the data by failing to process it in time. Where regions have short look ahead periods the supplier may be hit rather suddenly. It is better to increase the volumes gradually over a longer period as the data volume builds up.
- Operators - where operators plan well in advance and arrange streamlined changes on existing running times, we know that local authorities can turn this data round. The regions and local authorities can do a lot to stimulate operators to make sensible changes. Proposing a standard pattern of service in the area can help.
- Local Authorities and PTEs - should plan to have staff available in November to process timetables they have requested operators to submit at the beginning of November. This can usually be achieved by ensuring that other activities are not programmed at the same same time. It has in the past been thought that between Christmas and New Year, 1 January, or early January are good times to make service changes. While it may be true that passengers are otherwise occupied and complain less, we should try and avoid service changes until the end of January both by ensuring that contracting departments do not plan routine contract renewals and operators are persuaded not to change services. Call centres start to get their calls about Christmas from 1 December. There are advantages to the public in having the Christmas/New Year data available then, and Transport Direct certainly requires it. However one of the biggest advantages is that staff can check the data on the live system when there is still time to make improvements in subsequent routine updates. Some regions are starting to get tough with operators who do not get their data in on time and saying that no information will be given about their services during the holiday period. There is little value in spending staff Christmas eve entering data. Ideally the database can be frozen in Mid December and staff diverted to preparing printed literature of the changes.
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© Traveline 2009, Last updated: 9 September 2009