Wednesday, 30 October 2019

What's in a name?

Apologies to those who already know what follows, but I'm working on the principle that there are some to whom this might be new - and even some of those who might be interested.

It might come as no surprise to learn that there is a national database of bus stops - or, rather, a national database of access points to public transport (including, therefore, all bus stops). It's maintained by the Dept of Transport. Anyone interested in more background in this might want to follow this link. You can even download a copy yourself of the whole or part by following this link.

There are at least two "problems" with this database. One is that some operators choose not to use any of the authorised stop names in their timetables or apps, or on tickets. It's not like there's any penalty for non-compliance! The other is that data schema provides for a number of different names for a particular stop. Whilst there are sound reasons for this (length, for example), it doesn't exactly help provide any sort of consistency.

One particular example may be of interest to readers of this blog. What do you call the Busway Fen Drayton stop? Since there's no obvious ambiguity (nobody's likely to confuse it with one of the stops in Fen Drayton - or are they?), perhaps you simply go for "Fen Drayton". Context is everything!

According to the national database, the official "Common Name" of this stop is:

The Busway Fen Drayton Lakes

The registered short form of the name (needed in situations where the Common Name is too long) is:

Busway Fen Drayton

I don't think I've ever seen either of those in use.

The schema also has a field for 'Landmark'. In this instance the name "Fen Drayton Reserve" is assigned. And Busway users will have no difficulty spotting that this is the name that the signboards on both platforms carry. Someone (not me!) even took a photo of one of the boards, and here it is.

The County Council's Busway map (and their real-time data service, provided by an external contractor) uses "Fen Drayton Lakes" - a simplified form of the Common Name, but not one invested with any authority by the national database. Stagecoach avoid the issue by excluding the stop from its Busway timetable and pretending it doesn't exist (although all this means is that it's not a timing point for journeys).

But at least all of the above are intelligible to the average traveller. Which is more than you can say for an extreme variant which the County Council included in one of their frequent  closure announcements back in September. What is the average passenger supposed to make of this?

"Holywell Ferry stops will be closed"

How much local knowledge should a passenger be expected to bring to their prospective journey? Hands up anyone who was alive when the ferry last operated?

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