Thursday, December 07, 2006

Awarded for what?

I absolutely cannot believe it. Stagecoach has won a national award for it's Cambridge bus service. Sweet Jesus what must the busses in the rest of the country be like?

Western Greyhound. Mark Howarth and Robin Orbell. The winner was announced by Vince Christie, formerly of the Local Government AssociationAward for Operating Excellence? They are surely taking the piss. Aren't they?

Now, I get the Number Three most days and it gets worse and worse by the hour. I took it twice today.

Going into town: 25 minutes late - freezing cold. Ticket machine busted so driver could only sell me a single, which means I have to get a single back, which means I'm paying more because their machine is broken.

Wild driving and the bus seemed to be wheezing - never a good sign.

Coming back: Bus didn't show so had to wait half an hour for the next one - and its now colder, although I do happen to have a packet of biscuits on me so the time is well spent. Driver had an argument with a woman who couldn't speak English very well and ordered her off the bus. Passengers have to intervene to resolve the dispute.

This is completely normal. Driver turnover is very high so the quality of their driving and their ability to sell you the proper ticket is low. The busses seem to be getting worse, making them harder to drive and prone to break down. And they are completely unreliable - I always try to avoid relying on the last bus home simply because it may never come, at least if the last but one doesn't come you've still got a fall back.

The council has just started a free, green fueled bus taking people from the station to the town centre and back - but this sort of thing is very limited and for Stagecoach there is just no profit margin in it, so this sort of scheme isn't going to get extended this side of renationalisation.

Cambridge bus service is unbelievably bad and it is a slap in the face to bus users that the operator is getting a damn award for it. Here is my boringly simple three point plan to bring them upto speed.

  1. Driver retention. The company treats its staff like dirt. The job is a hard one, particularly in modern traffic - so we need to address wages, hours / shift patterns and training. We need to retain experienced drivers and ensure the drivers that are on the books are not completely demoralised - which leads to problems for service users.
  2. Service the bus stock. Instead of cutting to the minimum and operating a "just in time" system, which I suspect is a false economy anyway. We need clean, reliable busses that work (and that includes the ticket machine).
  3. Extending routes and times. When certain parts of town get no service, or one that's just completely below par it hardly encourages regular bus use does it? The whole of Trumpington gets no busses on a Sunday, at all. It's blooming madness. And why can't we have a late night service too? It could be less frequent (like once an hour) but starting at half six means many workers can't get to work by bus and ending at half eleven means real problems if you, say, are getting back late from London.

Oh yeah - and number four take back that bloody award.


Phugebrins said...

What confuses me is the fact that the buses look really nice - good painting, new interiors - and yet sitting in them, you can feel the ancient engine struggling and roaring and probably doing cartloads of damage to the environment. I reckon they wouldn't be nice to drive, either.

However, living half the year in Rutland, I can tell you that Cambridge's bus service could be a lot worse. I could quite imagine Cambridge's being one of the better ones.

Jim Jay said...

I'm sure it could be worse - after all I do see the occasional bus chug by. But to think there isn't any *better* - it makes me shudder!