Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Stagecoach launches its new website. . .

. .. Well, it didn't so much "launch" it as slip it unobtrusively into the ether, not surprisingly in view of all the fuss it made of the initial launch in October after which the old site swiftly re-appeared, whilst the bugs that apparently had gone un-noticed were sorted out!  So, what have we got?

Here's the Home Page -  Much clearer and cleaner design - easy to read and to navigate. Note that there's not a bus in sight. The images on the home page are chosen by each local area and that looks like Morecambe Bay to me. Different parts of the Stagecoach empire will show different images.
So how well does it work? Let's try and "Find a bus"
A search for a bus "from Preston to Lancaster" brought up this:

Not quite what our researcher expected, but OK if all you want is the time of the next bus. (The "high priority updates" by the way refer to service changes in South Ribble and Chorley in September and October!)

Perhaps "Plan a Journey" is what we need?  How about "Lancaster to Fleetwood"?

Oh dear!  Apparently it can't be done!  Strange though, because at 12.40 (35 minutes after the time of enquiry) a service 89H bus leaves Lancaster for Knott End, where it magically transforms itself into an 86 for Fleetwood. Through passengers don't even have to get off the bus!  And if that's not good enough then how about the 12.45 service 42 to Poulton-le-Fylde and a change on to the half-hourly service 84 to Fleetwood?  All these services are Stagecoach operated so it's not a case of ignoring other operators' buses.

This part of the site is not entirely useless. It did manage an enquiry for bus to Lytham, although calculating the fare was beyond it!
Let's hope the driver knows that the cheapest way to go is to buy a Lancashire Day Rider. He should do, it's cheaper than a single to Preston!

If you're not sure where your nearest bus stop is then you can find out on the "Maps" tab, which more obviously also offers a selection of local bus maps.

Clicking on "bus stops nearby" gives you the location of your nearest bus stops

From which you can find out the times of the next buses from there.

Some of these times are apparently "LIVE". In other words a prediction of when the bus will actually arrive rather than when the timetable says it should. This is new for Stagecoach, although some other operators have been doing it for a while. The Bus Users' Group will check for accuracy and report.
One welcome innovation is the showing of pay-on-the-bus single and return fares, previously a well-kept secret by Stagecoach as with most bus companies. So, how easy is to find the cost of a straightforward journey in suburban Lancaster? Not as easy as it should be if the fare to "Hall Park" is anything to go by. This stop is a fare stage and served by a number of different buses. 
So can we fine the fare?

Yes! It's £1.30 on service 3A
Or is it £1.70 on the 42?
Oh No!  It looks like it's £2.40 on service 3!

But all these buses the same route along the A6, use the same bus stops and have no picking-up restrictions or minimum fares, so what's going on?  Bus Users' researchers regularly make this journey and can report that they are always charged £1.70 irrespective of which service they use, which is just as you'd expect.

Despite the vast improvements in presentation and ease of navigation, the site failed two crucial tests. It told us that a relatively simple journey was impossible (not just difficult, or inconveient, but impossible) and it also confused us totally when it came to a very simple (they don't get easier) fares enquiry.  

More work needed at Stagecoach Towers me'thinks!

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