Bus Stop QR Codes

I happened to be at Stratford City Bus station last Thursday and stumbled across a stop that had had it’s SMS stop code plate replaced with the trial QR code style one.

I’m six foot four and still needed to hold my phone above head level to scan the QR code but nevertheless it worked and took me to the TfL website to show stop predictions. I didn’t spot the old SMS number at first as it was so small but at least it’s still there I guess.

A few moments later a lady come up and also tried to scan the QR code, she was a good foot or more shorter than I and, I guess she must have seen me scan it, she asked me if it had worked for me. She made the comment that there used to be a number on their that she could put into her phone… I pointed out that it was still there, just now in much, much smaller text, which I read out to her “91552”. “I’ll stick to using that then, it’s easier” was her comment.

I can’t believe this miniscule SMS code meets accessibility requirements. I wear glasses and struggled with the size of the text and the height it was displayed at didn’t help. Is the QR code even accessible to someone in a wheelchair?

On a related note, the two .csv files for bus stops and bus route sequences both contain the wrong ATCO codes for several stops in this area. Maybe it’s time these files were updated* or retired? *Updates were recently provided to answer a FoI request :wink: .

ht tps://tfl.gov.uk/bus-stops.csv
ht tps://tfl.gov.uk/bus-sequences.csv
(space inserted to stop the forum trying to preview the links)




Looking at that photo, a barcode only needs to be about 20mm if it’s at a sensible height, so I’m sure a smaller barcode lower down would have worked better.

For example, it could almost certainly be put here:


with plenty of room to its left to explain what it’s for, and that it’s free to use (apart from data), and plenty of room on the right to put the SMS code and explain what it costs.

I don’t think that the QR code has ever to be manually read by a human, as we’ve found that there is little need for the QR to be zoomed in using a mobile phone using the default camera apps for both Android and iPhone.

QR codes are found by:

  • Finding the white outline space of “three pixels”, then
  • Finding the three alignment square targets, then
  • Decoding the pixels within the found data.

The data is usually has a very, very high level of redundancy, so both validation and decoding don’t require close calls.

However one thing they 100% require: a flat surface. Placing QR code on a fold will prevent them from being recognised. We’ve just had to replace loads of codes that got such on Grand Central train seats that got placed on a non-flat surface - as per @harry arrow (sorry).

I’m also going to guess that TfL are pacing them above head hight to stop them being QR hi-jacked.


Where did I say a human was trying to read the QR code? The “miniscule SMS code” I’m referring to is the existing five digit SMS code that is displayed on the white background just below the QR code, you might need to zoom in, zoom in and zoom in to just about see it on my picture. Both myself and the lady who scanned the QR code after me needed to hold our phones up about our heads to scan this particular stop’s code, so something isn’t working as intended - this is where my comment about a wheelchair user comes in - if two standing passengers had problems, how would someone in a seated position fare?

I think requiring a flat surface is a relative thing… “flattish” seems to work when they’re painted on brick! I took this picture in Shoreditch yesterday (having seen them start to paint it last week) and my phone picked up the QR code at this distance. :slight_smile:

(Tedious link - this is below the two/three 83 stock carriages)


I really don’t know why SMS codes are still there. As far as I recall they were invented by a guy (Dave Norman) who was briefly my boss back in Mach 1992, just before I made my first professional website back in May 1995.

So, yes, I know the secrets of SMS (such as how to get a reply receipt).

I thought SMS was out of the door as the GSM (“2G” systems were being turned off to supply frequencies for 5G so the life of SMS is very limited on some networks and 2033 on all.

) - 2G/3G Switch Off | Mobile UK.

I think you are talking cross-purposes here - the OP was referring to the SMS code of the bus stop (the 5 digit code used by TfL to uniquely identify each bus stop aka StopCode1 in the countdown feed and icsCode in the unified API and used by many apps still), not mobile phone technology to transmit messages.

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As Mulder says, I was referring to the five digit code as I’ve highlighted in Green in the pic below…

(I believe TfL’s iBUS system uses SMS text messages between the route controllers at base and the vehicles’ drivers and vv for brief / standard messages, so I’d suspect TfL would be getting a hurry up with a replacement for iBUS but it all seems to have gone quiet recently.)


@SJCooper Looks like “for contractual uses only to me”.

I really don’t get why you’re concerned about this, as I say I can’t see I’ve seen anyone use this system in the last decade.

“Looks like “for contractual uses only to me”.” huh???

Why am I concerned? I use it, the users of our system use it and as I posted in the first message, clearly members of the public still use it! To be clear, I’m not sending an SMS text message to get a reply from TfL (and neither was member of the public), I’m entering the code into our website to get arrival predictions.
Both the TfL Countdown API documentation and the Naptan documentation say the short code should be used for public facing purposes…


Which is the whole point of the QR code… :nerd_face:

The QR code doesn’t take me to our website though…


So, use

Evening all,

Having just seen this >> Thornaby: Woman targeted in £13k train station QR code scam - BBC News,
I’m just wondering if there’s any update on TfL’s QR code trial?


Hi Simon, thanks for sharing this article, which is interesting food for thought.

I’m not aware of any changes to the QR codes at bus stops. They are handled by a different team to this forum’s staff, but we have passed on feedback raised on this forum to them, and we will continue to pass on any further feedback raised.

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