I’m sure we’ve all experienced this situation when a bus pulls up at a stop, and then proceeds to wait for a few minutes, while some impatient/frustrated passenger starts repeatedly pressing the ‘Stop’ button, sometimes accompanied by some “colourful” language.

While I appreciate that many of you do understand why this happens, I thought I’d pen this short article for the benefit of those that don’t.

“Why have you stopped? Get moving!”

In case you are unaware, buses run to a schedule otherwise known as a “timetable”.

Timetables for all bus services operating in the West Midlands can of course be found at the TfWM website, as well as bus operators websites, and on other services such as BusTimes.

Even for very frequent services, each stop on the route has a scheduled time that the bus should arrive at. I emphasis the word ‘should’ as most people believe that buses just run whenever they feel like it.

Now of course there are numerous reasons why buses end up running late, but that is not really the point of this article.

If traffic conditions are favourable, and buses are able to run to schedule, believe it or not but they can’t run early!

People moan and complain when buses run late, but just as equally, people also moan and complain when they miss their bus because it came early.

So this is where the concept of “timing points” comes into play. Various ‘main stops’ along any route may be designated as “timing points”.

What is a “timing point” then?

If a bus is running on time or slightly earlier, the timing points are where they need to wait until they can leave at the time specified on the timetable. This allows them to get back ‘on time’ and avoid disappointing intending passengers further along the route who may not be at their stop in advance of the arrival of their bus.

Basically, bus drivers can get into trouble if they depart a timing point over a minute before they are scheduled to, and also a service is marked as ‘late running’ if it leaves more than five minutes after it is scheduled to.

So I’m wasting my time banging on the Stop bell button then?

Basically yes. Repeatedly bashing the Stop bell button isn’t going to inspire the driver to get the bus moving. It will probably annoy other passengers, as well as the driver, who knows they may well decide to depart a couple of minutes late to spite you (knowing they’ll probably still arrive early at the next timing point)

Relax and chill out – if the bus is waiting at a timing point because it is early, the good news is that it is running to schedule, and is therefore very likely to arrive at your destination stop at the time you would have expected to anyway.

So where are these “timing points” then?

That’s a good question, and it always pays to know this kind of stuff!

Probably the quickest and easiest way to find this out is to search for your timetable at the BusTimes website. By default this will only show the ‘main’ stops (ie the timing points) along that route, as in the example below for my local 3 service.

Of course, if you tick the ‘Show all stops’ box, then it will show scheduled times for all the intermediate stops along the route.

It needs to be stressed that the times shown for these ‘intermediate’ stops are for guidance only, and there is always the possibility that if conditions are favourable then the bus could come a few minutes earlier than scheduled, so it always pays to be at the stop a good few minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive, just in case it is running early.

But in the above example, if the 3 gets to the Palmerston Road stop in Sparkbrook at 08:15, the driver will have to wait there until 08:18 because they are early.

TfWM Timetables

When searching for timetables from the TfWM website, by default the PDF download link is for the ‘full’ timetable, which shows schedules for all the stops on that route.

Depending on your PDF viewer, you may have available in the list of contents a ‘link to main stops timetable’:

This will of course then present a PDF showing the main ‘timing points’ for that route.

Which is pretty much what is shown on the BusTimes website.

Now depending on the service and the length of its route, there may be several ‘timing points’ along that route, I only picked out the 3 as it is a relatively short route with only four timing points.

Oh, I see now

Yes, a bus may depart from or pass by any stop along the route early, but it can’t do so if that stop is a timing point. If it is early, then the driver has no choice but to park up and wait time, before they can leave. There’s nothing you can do about this, and repeatedly pressing the Stop bell button and/or hurling insults at the driver isn’t going to change matters unfortunately.

You might be running late, but at least the bus isn’t!


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1 year ago

This only works if you are having to get one bus and are a short walk to your bus stop (many bus stops only have one bus many times infrequent serving it). We have one 30mins serving us whereas we had 3 services serving us before so less bus options getting home now. I have walking disability my mom arthritis, we have to get two buses to go short distances for most facilities, the bus has stopped (in our case 87 or 12) and we miss our connection so have to carry shopping 20mins home (we couldnt wait as its too long). This would be solved with more direct buses even hourly ones serving each stop. One bus in a very sloped road only every 30mins is inconvenient and ends up in long walks. In fact now I often dont bother with two buses as its too much hassle even with a disability Id rather walk 20mins uphill from 12 or 87 plus I have shopping its inconvenient on two buses. This would be solved with more local (in our case) Bearwood and Oldbury buses (our nearest shopping centres) nearer to where we live. But I understand people ringing the bell if people are worried getting a connection I have been in that situation many times and 9 times out of 10 miss a connection whether it be a bus or train. Assuming people are running late isnt true in all cases. Many bus passengers are elderly and disabled and cannot walk the extra to alternative services our nearest frequent buses are 20mins walk away up/downhill! Not everyone uses mobile phones. Two buses for short journeys dont work and many local buses can serve more local roads they did before and it worked! 😉

1 year ago
Reply to  WMBU

I agree to an an extent yes if they are telling people to go on two buses they should organise it so people can change bus easily, however they are often adviding people to switch from frequent buses to none frequent ones or from infrequent to infrequent.

Also no direct bus from Smethwick to Bearwood (considering Bearwood is Smethwick’s main shopping centre) and there were 3 buses linking the two years ago seems rather odd, it just doesnt make logical sense. Its cut off many elderly and disabled passengers from a number of large roads who used to have a direct bus which was convenient. 2 buses to go a longer distance is understandable but 2 to go 1.5miles isnt encoraging people. Its the same from Oldbury (its one of our nearest centres and has shops and facilities not found in other nearby centres). Most bus passengers travel actually short distances. They could easily reroute a number of routes I know like 48 or 48a or 21 with very little inconvenience to current passengers infact they would be benefitting far more as a number of Bearwood and Warley passengers need Smethwick High St and vica versa. So it is feasible. I know a number of local bus passengers who have stopped using buses due to 2 bus scenario to travel within their own town. The changes have meant more are put off using buses long term. Their original idea seems was to provide locals with super direct buses to places like West Brom to encourage use. But in places like Smethwick passengers even the same ones go to different centres and sections at different times of the week as facilities are spread out. It hasnt encouraged usage. Facilities in Smethwick are spread out and many different shops and facilities are found in different sections unlike other towns (the main library in one section, shops in others, health facilities in another etc) Smethwick is not like Blackheath or West Brom where things are located in one small centre and so simplifying buses and getting people to use two buses hasnt worked and has been a disaster imo. Its meant more inconvenience and some of the walking distances are too far for services for many elderly and disabled passengers many of whom struggle to use two buses with shopping and who have infrewuent services serving them

1 year ago
Reply to  WMBU

Also say, by us the High St is a good 20mins walk away but so are most bus services. Even at our section of High St is just library and few banks not any real shops certainly not a major supermarket or High St shops. In that situation bus companies should be providing roads like ours more services to various local centres whereas currently we have one 30mins bus to few centres in a very long winded route and thats it, its not very appealing to use public transport so most have to drive. I myself are learning to drive to give myself and mom more independence and be able to access more local facilities within our section of Sandwell more easily which will save us time as it currently takes much longer on two buses.

1 year ago
Reply to  WMBU

The official argument has been by going through Smethwick High St journeys are longer between Bearwood/Warley and West Brom. My counter argument has always been buses like 48 or 48a are going to West Brom anyway and isnt much extra to benefit more passengers who can use one bus for a variety of centres rather than having to switch bus which is inconvenient especially for disabled and older passengers. Also not everybody wants or needs West Brom and maybe need other facilities elsewhere at other times. I know passengers who need Smethwick Blue Gates or main library or trains from Bearwood. The main Temple has also said people in Harborne and Bearwood are struggling to access temple and other facilities on High St. So yes a journey maybe shorter for some, but a route shouldnt be changed to only benefit a few people, while inconveniencing many more passengers along the old routes in other ways causing them longer journeys. I with my walking disability if I lived in Bearwood would rather a bus like 48 went via High St again taking few extra mins (I be sitting down and still able to get to West Brom direct) rather than having to get two buses if I needed the High St or having to walk a long distance.

John Rose
John Rose
1 year ago

Thanks, Sir!