Little sign of information for travellers

The right turn off this road is very important to strangers, but they may not realise it until it is almost too late.
The right turn off this road is very important to strangers, but they may not realise it until it is almost too late.

During the summer the vegetation on roadsides thickens so that it sometimes obscures road signs.

The highway authorities cut it down, but this is done by machines, which have to avoid structures such as signs. Also, the frequency with which they do it depends on the availability of resources.

The curious thing about road signs is that while highway authorities and local authorities have the responsibility of erecting them, apparently nobody has a responsibility to maintain them in the sense of clearing away vegetation so that they can be seen.

A sinister development is a suggestion that authorities should be relieved of the responsibility of erecting them now that ‘everybody uses satellite navigation’ and road signs are unnecessary.

However, some people still prefer to use maps, which make driving in unfamiliar territory more interesting, and road signs are a useful adjunct to them.

Now that the idea of electric cars is taking hold and a date has been set for ending the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, the drawbacks to electric propulsion, such as lack of range and slow re-charging, will soon be overcome.

It seems to be assumed that electric cars will all need direct charging from parking meters, lamp standards, etc, but this need not be the case.

An intermediate form of electric vehicle has been developed using the traditional engine to re-charge the batteries. These are known as hybrid vehicles, and the next major development is to replace the traditional engine with hydrogen fuel-cells to generate the electricity on board, whose exhaust is pure water.

While this is being applied to larger vehicles, particularly buses, it is only a matter of time before it appears in cars.

This technology will transform buses, but more needs to be done to improve information to encourage people to use them.

In 1997 the Government introduced a wonderful service called Transport Direct, which listed how to get from anywhere to anywhere by any means. One of its most useful features was to compare various forms of transport, including cars. Unfortunately, it was closed down on September 30, 2014.

Traditionally, bus timetables were printed in various forms, but from 1974 they largely became the responsibility of local authorities. As such they were subject to scrutiny, and as they represent an identifiable cost that yields an unidentifiable revenue, many ceased to exist on the grounds that the information is ‘widely available’ on the internet.

Many bus users are elderly and are not natural internet users so they are deprived of bus services simply from lack of information, unless they go to the bus stop, where the provision of timetables has greatly improved in recent years.

Information at bus stops tells people about services, but it does not, in most cases, tell them when they can return from wherever they go, nor what connecting services are available.

The best operators see the provision of information as an important marketing tool, and because they are the best, they operate the most frequent services, which least need timetables.

The poorest operators see little need to supplement the information so their passengers most need information, but are least likely to have access to it.

John Wylde is the author of Integrated Transport – a Will-o’-the-wisp? priced £14.95, post paid and signed. Also Experiments in Public Transport Operation, at £11.95. Order at