Bus working timetables - high error rate

I have waited several months before posting about this problem in the hope that it would be permanently sorted. In fact it was sorted three weeks ago, only for it to rear its ugly head the folloing week.

TfL publishes bus working timetables (schedules) at https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/bus-schedules, a very welcome development. Typically about 3,200 schedules are available at any one time, though this includes some scheduels which are obsolete but never needed to eb overwritten.

The schedules are clearly recreated every week from some source (judging from the file creation dates in the relevant Data Bucket at http://bus.data.tfl.gov.uk/).

Unfortunately at least 450 (14% plus) of the schedules are currently incorrect. By that I mean that they were replaced at some stage but have managed to get reinstated, overwriting the later versions, or that what should be the current schedules simply have not been loaded.

This has been going on for months. In some cases the schedule available for download had repeatedly oscillated between the correct and one, sometimes two, older versions.

I have pointed this out repeatedly to the web team by e-mail. Although I have never received anything other than an automated reply, this may have had some effect as the 3rd June upload basically corrected everything.

Move on a fortnight to the 18th June update and the problem was back on an even bigger scale.

This week (the 24th June update) nothing was corrected as such and even more incorrect files were reloaded.

This is written up more fully at http://timetablegraveyard.co.uk/new_wtts.html and I will not repeat it all here. Amongst the current lowlights are the 25 apparently still running to Oxford Circus and the N72 via the clsoed Hammersmith Bridge. The new 46 schedules loaded just last week have been overwritten with something older.

On the face of it, this is a simple failure of version control. There must be an “expired” marker (otherwise even more routes would be involved) but either it is not always being set properly or the file creation process is failing to use it correctly.

It clearly can be done right (as on 3rd June) so why is it not always being done right?

I have heard it said that the online schedules are useful to service controllers. If this is true they are using a set of schedules with an alarmingly high error rate.

I appreciate that this a niche interest and also about what is essentially a static source but I would really like someone to take ownership of this issue.

Hello @mjcarchive

We’re currently investigating this with our scheduling colleagues in Surface Transport.

We’ll let you know when we have made some progress.


Thanks, James. Happy or provide other examples if that would be helpful.


I would like to be able to report that this week’s update had cleared all the problems.

But I can’t, because it didn’t happen on Monday. That is not unusual but it usually gets done the following night when that happens, Not this time.

I would like to think that this is because someone is trying to put safeguards in to stop the wrong schedules being loaded … but I am not holding my breath.

Still no update on Wednesday night.

Or Thursday or Friday night.

Could someone please indicate why the update process is not taking place at all?

Still nothing. That is two successive weeks’ updates missed.

I appreciate that there may be good reasons but is it too much to expect to be given a clue as to what they are?

Hi @mjarchive Just to let you know, the team are investigating the issue. I’ll update this thread when I get more info from them. Thanks for reporting the issue to us.

Please to see there was an update yesterday evening. I can see a lot of reinstatements of the correct files . It will take a bit of time to check thoroughly but hopefully the problem is sorted…

… at least for this week. The real test will be whether a stake has been driven through the heart of the errors or whether they will be back to haunt us next week.


Do you want the good news first?

The hard work done by TfL to correct pretty much all the errors has not been negated by an update this week.

The bad news is that this could well be because here has been no update this week.

Typically, the source is updated last thing every Monday, picking up the weekend changes. This does slip a day or so fairly often - users do not know why.

It is worth noting that the corrections just happened, without any explanation of cause or solution passed back to this site. Obviously hat is better than not making the correction at all but it would be good to have reassurance that the process is fixed (and will still occur on the same timetable).

I have heard it said that some staff at TfL and at the bus operators (I do not work for either) find it very useful to have the working timetables on tap, which makes it all then more important to have the source up-to-date and robust.

Sigh - still no update.

@mjcarchive - Theo was looking into this with the relevant teams but she’s on leave. I’ll try to follow up on Monday and I’ll let you know what I find.


Just to update that this week’s update has been missed again, which makes it the third week running.

Lost count - second week running.

Shouldn’t have bothered correcting. That is three weeks now.

I see that a FOI request has just gone in for the current 81 schedules. If the weekly update cycle has been kept to, these schedules would be available from the TfL website. I can foresee a series of such requests (which was what the working timetable publication process was supposed to avoid); after all there is no guarantee that he 81 schedules won’t change again in a fortnight or so.

Bloody TFL, useless! The customer service staff dont know what we on about so dont pass on to correct departments etc