Christmas Eve last buses

I’m scratching my head over this one.

The Christmas Eve working timetables for routes 19 and 436 show journeys starting after midnight, that is on Christmas Day itself. That’s fine.

There are Journey Planner files within Datastore for these routes but these do not show the post-midnight journeys.

So where within the Datastore files would a user find out at what time the last buses really run, other than by trying out options on Journey Planner itself?

A list of last buses where they differ from the normal service (and for all 24 hour routes) would be a useful addition to TfL seasonal publicity but that is probably too much to expect!

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@nemanshafiq @gerardbutler
I should also add that I suspect that a large number of Christmas Eve WTTs are yet to be loaded (and it is too late now to be useful for the day). I have found quite a lot of 24th December Journey Planner files for which there is no WTT equivalent, including some where the evening running times are different (e g routes 1 and 35).

There’s nothing like a Christmas quiz. And this is nothing like a Christmas quiz. Do not write on both sides of the paper.

Q1. When does the last bus on route 6 leave Willesden on Christmas Eve? Is it:-
i. at 2320, the normal last Saturday “day” bus on the route, and the last one in the 2021 Christmas Eve WTT?
ii. at 2345, as shown in the JP file in Datastore for 24th?
iii. at 0015, as returned by Journey Planner itself?

Q2. When does the first bus on route 6 leave Willesden on Boxing Day? Is it:-
i. at 0535, the normal first Sunday “day” bus on the route, as shown in the JP file in Datastore for 26th?
ii. at 0605, as returned by Journey Planner itself?

Students may wish to bear in mind that working timetables have not been posted for route 6 for either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, which ought to imply that the normal Saturday and Sunday “day” timetables apply.

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Hi Michael,

Christmas eve 24hr service will run until the last “day service” in the Saturday day schedule, so will be after midnight for most services, for Boxing day the services will start from the first “day service” on the Sunday day schedule. With regards to the difference in files, whilst we await operators to provide schedule data for these services we have put a temporary block in to prevent any buses that operate over night from showing the the data and once we are confident that all the schedules provided by operators are correct these will be removed.

Matthew (cc @GerardButler )

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@mscanlon @GerardButler
Thanks for your speedy reply, Matthew. However, it doesn’t explain why Journey Planner itself WAS returning journeys for route 6 starting after midnight for Christmas Eve night. Nor why it seems to be omitting the first two journeys on Boxing Day morning. (BTW, some 24 hour routes have packed up before the last Saturday “day” journey would have run in previous years, so that - if carried through - is a real change.)

There are wider issues here. The first is that however much sense blocking the post-midnight journeys makes to you as data providers, where does it leave the user trying to plan their return home on Christmas Eve right now? They have no idea that journeys are being omitted, nor will they have any idea when the information presented has actually been corrected to include them. Anyone who uses the Datastore files to present information to others is unlikely to have access to corrected files until the week after Christmas! It may be “just in time” for TfL systems but not for anyone else.

The second wider issue is probably outside your control but the apparent low priority accorded by TfL and/or operators to getting important last journey information out there in plenty of time does disturb me. Getting home safely is important. I understand that suppressing info for the journeys in question is a “right side error” but it’s not much better if a passenger who cannot get on what they have been led to believe is the last bus is unaware that there are three more to come.

Rant over … for now!



Many thanks for your comprehensive response and your constructive feedback in the past.

Unfortunately, there are some apparent misconceptions which I need to address for the wider benefit of the forum community.

Your selection of Route 6 is interesting in the context of the missing WTT’s to which you refer, as Metroline have not produced a dedicated Boxing Day schedule, though a Christmas Eve one was actually produced. Nearly all 24 hour routes have had a confirmed schedule supplied by operators for Christmas Eve, slightly fewer for Boxing Day,

Where schedules are missing, as you correctly suggest, the consequent default we would follow is to use the last Saturday bus or first Sunday bus of the standard “day” timetable ie exclude anything within the N6 file. Answers to your questions are consequently Q1. (i) and Q2 (i). However, Journey Planner itself is actually returning 0535 as a first journey. 24 hour routes were effectively released in one go when all timetables were ready in JP rather than a piecemeal approach.

Every single 24 hour route, either where schedules have been supplied by operators, or customised as described, has been checked in Journey Planner, and by association the API. N prefixed routes have been suppressed entirely.

Looking at the detail, I think I have established the limitations of the TransXChange files, compared to the API, which has been updated each day this week in comparison to the weekly TXC uploads, in that they are potentially truncating these timetables at midnight. This would appear peculiar as such an issue would more logically be commonplace for any route which has journeys in the early hours of the following day. This does not appear to be the case, and there has never been a suggestion that this has happened in previous Christmas datasets (this is the twelfth TXC one produced, or in standard timetables). Is it then down to how they are being interpreted by users?. There is no question of journeys being blocked as you allude to, other than as explained above to release data in one set.

We very much support your suggestion of a detailed list of last buses at least for 24 hour routes, but, as you acknowledge, the festival travel information is not drafted by our team. However, the point to underline is that Journey Planner and the API have been thoroughly tested and are complete, as well as being updated far more frequently.

Best wishes

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Thanks, @GerardButler

It’s more fun being destructive but it doesn’t actually help things get done!

Journey Planner is indeed now returning 0535 as the first Boxing Day journey, which it definitely was not yesterday. It is however still returning 0015 as the last Christmas Eve journey from Willesden and I’ve had that confirmed by a contact at the operator. So that would make it Q1 (iii), a bit of a head scratcher given your reply.

Are you saying that all 24 hour routes are now showing correct times, or that they will be at some stage in the next day or three? Part of the issue here for users is that while you know when you have finished the job, we have no way of knowing when we can fully trust what is presented (and thus whether any work we do with the data is potentially wasted effort).

Is it just a 24 hour route issue? The 436 is not a 24 hour route. The Datastore file (the one with 61466 in the file name) shows (or showed) last journeys at 2356 from Lewisham and 2352 from Nine Elms. The working timetable which was produced shows further journeys after midnight. So does Journey Planner itself. I may well be misinterpreting something but where (if anywhere) would I find those post-midnight journeys on Datastore?

I do appreciate that you are reliant on the timeliness and accuracy of what comes in, that your resources are finite and that the TransXChange files are what the system needs rather than being aimed at passengers but just knowing where things stand at any particular point of time would itself be a step forwards.



Indeed - the last 6 from Willesden Bus Garage is at 0015 Christmas Day as per Metroline timetable

All 24 hour routes have been correct in Journey Planner on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day since at least Tuesday

As already mentioned we don’t know whether the TXC issue is interpretation or journeys being removed in processing. We know the “main” timetables for all routes generate correctly

If you can’t locate the post midnight journeys within the existing files then they will not appear in other files. Our suppliers have been asked for their observations but as alluded to earlier, it may be a limitation of the capabilities of TransXChange.

Thanks again, Gerard. A gift wrapped Christmas bug would be odd but stranger things have happened. I did wonder for a moment whether TransXChange simply forbade all Christmas Day starts as a matter or principle but as some operators do run day services that cannot be.

Anyway, I’ll leave you in peace, heavenly or oitherwise…


Unless I am seeing things (or not seeing things that I should) the issue also affects the special New Year’s Eve timetables. This is a trifle ironic as the only reason for their existence as specials is to show the additional night service … and they don’t! Nor do they show the normal post-midnight journeys.

So, where in the Datastore files are the NYE night journeys on (for example) the 407? They do come up on Journey Planner itself so something is removing them en route to the xml files.

It even applies to special NYE night files for night routes. The special file for N3 just contains one journey, at 2345! It’s almost beyond parody.

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Dumb question… is there a special file for the 1st Jan.?


Not a dumb question at all but if there is anything there for 1st Jan (or 25th Dec for that matter) it is too well hidden for me to find.


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