Word reaches me from “cider country” that the long-established timetable booklet has perished.
Sad, but not totally unexpected. A quick Google to confirm this finds an inevitable “letter to the Editor” of the local newspaper, expressing outrage. In fact, the author of said letter reckons the local authority couldn’t “give a monkey’s”.
I’m not even sure Herefordshire Council have any monkeys left to give.
It might be simplistic of me to throw out there the £30bn or so the Chancellor has thrown at motorists in the recent budget. Or perhaps the nineth year on the bounce fuel duty has been frozen for “hard-working families”* (*motorists with votes). Maybe I’m also being simplistic when I suggest that bus users are, as usual, being treated like second-class citizens, compared to motorists.
Of course, a few of us are actually both. But the reality is, as ever, that once motorists have their vehicle, they see little point in “paying again” to use public transport, compared to the perceived simplicity of hopping in their car.
Despite the effort in some parts of the bus industry to make their services simple, effective and price-competitive, there remains a general mystique about bus services. Much of that is based around the timetable. And, often bizarrely, it’s like trying to pull hen’s teeth to actually get hold of a timetable online quickly and easily. Some company and authority websites remain inexplicably difficult to navigate.
Look, I know it isn’t “sexy” or “cost-effective” or a “good use of taxpayers money” to print an old-fashioned booklet full of bus timetables (according to cash-strapped local authorities with little budget for such “frivolities”), but it’s all really part of why the bus still isn’t regarded as a serious alternative for many people’s journeys.
What about if we said we weren’t building any more roads? (because we all know that as soon as this expensive asphalt is laid, it quickly fills up with traffic). Or maybe we were going to build a load of bus priority, with heavy fines for offenders, rigourosly policed? Maybe parking your car in town would soon be more expensive than a bus ticket? (Hey, in Dudley we have started encouraging more car journeys – and more pollution – by giving motorists 2 hours free parking…)
And what if we saw local authorities being given funding for serious partnerships with private sector bus operators, who are commercial experts in their field, to really offer a viable alternative to endless queues of cars, all choking us to a potential early death?
And….what if the local authority kicked off all of this renaissance in the bus by having the funding to produce a bus guide that effectively and simply explained the local network in a comprehensive form?
Now THERE’S an idea….