Tuesday 13 November 2007

On the buses - and off again

When Ro started his new job, he intended to travel to Norwich by bus each day. There's a service every hour. Within the first couple of days, he knew he wouldn't be able to stick to it.

This morning, he left the house at 7.12, for a brisk 15-minute walk to the bus stop, which is 1 1/4 miles away. The bus will have left at 8.30 and reached the bus station in Norwich at 8.25 for him to reach his desk at 8.30.

Tonight, he'll finish around 4.30, catch the bus at 5, and get home about 6.30 - it often leaves late, though there's never an explanation.

Contrast this with the car. Leave home 7.55, be at his desk, after walking from the car park, at 8.30. Leave work at 4.30, be home, allowing for traffic, before 5.15. That's a difference of two hours per day...ten hours every week of time wasted.

He quite appreciates that the bus has to take longer, but what he can't understand is why every bus meanders through the villages, where it neither takes on nor drops off any passengers. It comes from Halesworth, and almost all people get on in Yagnub and in Poringland - all on the main road. Why, he wonders, is there not a commuter bus that goes direct?

At least, I'd said before he started, he wouldn't have the stress of driving in rush-hour traffic. But he says that the buses are cold and uncomfortable and he can't relax anyway. Yesterday, the company sent a coach, and it was quite a pleasant contrast.

It isn't even cheap. Buying a daily ticket is £4, and a season ticket would work out at £2.80. He reckons the petrol would cost £3 per day, even at over £1 per litre, which is what it costs now. At present, he's looking for someone to carshare with, but otherwise his employers will let him have a parking permit and he'll drive himself.

It seems to me that those in charge, while extolling the benefits and virtues of public transport, actually don't have much regard for the people who use it. They think that it's only for pensioners (who don't pay), children and the poor, none of whom, they think, matters. The only thing they can think of is to impose congestion charges and higher car park charges, while not addressing the actual reason people don't want to use the bus.

I have long believed that all people who are in charge of running the country should be obliged to use public transport. Not just in the major cities, where buses, trams, the underground, are the obvious ways to get around (not, I suspect, that they do), but everywhere. No chauffeur-driven car to pick them up from the railway station. No allowances made for the amount of stuff they have to carry, nor for any disabilities that do not qualify them for a disabled parking badge. We'd soon have an excellent public transport system which people would actually use.


The Boy said...

I'd vote for that law. I do use public transport, and for the most part it works, but when it goes wrong, its horrible. There is nothing much worth than standing shoulder to armpit in an overly warm or overly cold bus or train.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane said...

That's an excellent idea, I'd vote for that too. However I would also expand the ruling to senior Civil Servants, Heads of Local Authorities and senior copppers - that would help speed up the improvements.

I used the bus to get to work for over ten years and it was miserable, frequently late without explanation or apology, often surly staff and inadequate shelter against the elements at both ends.

Dave said...

Quite agree.

As it happens, the trains from here to Norwich are priced about right - it costs about as much as I would spend in petrol, not to mention car parking charges. It takes the same length of time (an hour) as driving in and finding a parking space, notwithstanding that it goes round the houses, and stops half a dozen times. I also get an hour in reasonable comfort to read a book.

So public transport can work. Shame that most of the time it doesn't.

Z said...

I bet you don't when you go out and about with the family at the weekend, though. I certainly wouldn't. Apart from trains and in London, I almost never do. The park and ride in Norwich, once in a while, but you have to be in the city centre for at least three hours for it to cost less than the car parks.

Z said...

That was a reply to Boy - yes, I agree with you too, Jane. I think any public servant should use the NHS too, with no special treatment such as speeded waiting list or private rooms. Behave like Jo(e) Public, and then they'd have more right to dictate to us.

Trains are much better, Dave, as long as you aren't a commuter. I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing they can think of is to impose congestion charges and higher car park charges, while not addressing the actual reason people don't want to use the bus."

Great idea about making politicians use buses to get the systme improved. Would also apply to making them use state education and the NHS I think...

Z said...

The NHS, yes, but I don't think one could impose such rules on their families, so private schools couldn't be forced. Nevertheless, if you make sure you are accepted by a selective school, why would you need to pay?

In the first place, there should be no mileage allowances for cars and no health insurance as part of the wage deal.

A wildlife gardener said...

I couldn't agree more. Where we live there is no transport system, so we have to use our car to get to the nearest towns.

The road outside our house is a busy B road with no pavement so when we do walk through the village we are in danger of losing our lives.

Although we are now at an age when we could use our free bus pass, we need to take the car 14 miles each way to the nearest town with a bus service.

Anonymous said...

I had a job for 10 years that was about 10 miles from here. I had to change buses midway and the trip was one hour each way. Had a car been available the trip would take 20-30 minutes. I'd come home exhausted. Now I work walking distance and can be home in 7 minutes. Much less stress.

Unknown said...

Just carry on driving, he's doing no harm. If you want harm look at my rant yesterday!

Chairwoman of the bored said...

Many years ago, a colleague of my father asked him why he always drove to work rather than take the tube.

His answer was short and succinct. "I've never had to stand", he replied.

Z said...

WG - they have no idea, do they? It's just easier to blame us.

Martina, Ro is out of the house for 11 hours a day and he does nothing else with his time. He would accept that if it were not such an uncomfortable trip.

John, I read it and I was disgusted too. No, he's not doing any harm - a small car, old, so no recent manufacturing ungreenness and doesn't use much petrol. He'd be quite glad not to have a car and save the cost, though.

Chairwoman, HA! Excellent. Glad to hear from you xx

Monozygote said...

You could make it so that no-one could be a politician that hadn't had a state education. I wonder if that would have any effect upon the state of affairs.

Also, I have an idea why the bus might be late. Could it be that it got stuck in traffic on the way?

Would also like to add my voice if I may to the cacophony of concurrences. We should lobby the government.

Z said...

They were all sitting on the bus, it was the driver who was late. He could have been in the traffic, but Norwich rush hour traffic is fairly predictable and not overly bad that day.

Splendid idea - ten more years of Grammar School educated Mrs T, rather than public schoolboy Mr B.

I am, btw, the product of a fairly crappy, but very charming private convent school.

Anonymous said...

In the first place, there should be no mileage allowances for cars and no health insurance as part of the wage deal.

I do disagree with that... good people at senior levels (which is what the current systme lacks) already have the pick of jobs. Make the local government (etc) package less attractive and you won't get any decent applicants. It costs no more (and sometimes less) for employers to give people 'benefits in kind 'than to give them cash to pay for them themselves. And people are taxed on them... while the employers can often offset them.

Z said...

But BW, if they are obliged to use public transport and the NHS for their work, why would they need allowances for them as part of their salary? My suggestion is merely the half-way house, and a means to an end .

Monozygote said...

Yeah, good point, z. Plus, if I may add, not all "good" people are shallow greedy egotistical self-seeking prostitutional cunts. Some of them actually have a conscience, and some of them want to put their efforts where they think it might improve things, to put something back to the world instead of take take take in a mercenary way.

If not having to use the NHS is part of an incentivising "package", what does that say about the NHS? Or about our opinion of the people we are expecting to use it? Well dodge, if you don't mind me saying. I want an NHS where private healthcare doesn't consititute an advantage, thank you very much indeed.

Z said...

It isn't, of course, necessarily greedy to negotiate the best wage deal. I'd taken my suggestion from the standpoint of people who govern us using public transport to appreciate its limitations and understand how it would be best improved. The argument could be extended to other services.