Monday, 29 July 2013

Brighton buses Smartcard - anything but smart

Q. When does a week have 4 days?
A. When you are travelling on a Brighton bus

The cheery face of Brighton buses - but they seem to be happy to let their systems rip us off
Mistakes happen. People learn from them - usually. But when errors are allowed to recur on a computerised system, it is either because those responsible do not give a damn or they have consciously worked out that the mistake is earning them money so they leave it in place.

Ride on a bus without a ticket and you get a penalty fare. If it can be shown that you did it with intent then you can finish up with a fine and a criminal record that will ruin your life.

Boot on the other foot. Set up a system that takes people's money and then when it does not give what it should, choose to do nothing about it. What's the consequence? Even for repeat offenses. Nothing - the way the law works there is no chance of getting the bus company in the dock.

To allow proper use of Brighton and Hove Bus's Smartcard, weekly, monthly and daily tickets sometimes need to co-exist on the card. But the systems are ill designed and for the third time in the last year my wife has spotted errors that mean she has to spend time getting evidence together and contacting Brighton Buses to get a refund. On this occasion as well as spotting the week lasting only 4 days we have found a 28 day ticket that expired after 25 days. Many people will simply not spot these errors happening.

The online information on the Brighton Smartcard site is not user friendly but here you will see how a weekly ticket started on 15 July but the Smartcard charged a new single fare on 19 July.

Here is some computer code Brighton Buses need to write:

If card has not expired
Then do not charge customer

Yes, it's simple. But someone somewhere within Brighton Buses management has either decided they can't be bothered to deal with the issue or, more likely, it's too much of a money earner so why fix it?