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The Rollercoaster of Doom – why are our bus services so poor?

The Rollercoaster of Doom – why are our bus services so poor?

🕔16.Nov 2012

The sinister Liverpool Pathway of Death has now rightly been outed in the national press. Many a pensioner could be excused for thinking that another pathway threatening their life and limb exists on West Midland buses.

With free travel to entice them aboard, they encounter literally the first jolt to their physical safety when the driver revs his engine and then takes his foot off the brake so the bus lurches forward, sending the aged bus pass holder careering down the aisle.

If our elderly passenger survives this hazard and regains equilibrium as the bus accelerates towards the next stop, he or she may wonder why the driver has now miscalculated his stopping distance and jams on his brakes, sending our passenger flying for the second time. After countless journeys I can say that this is not down to one rogue driver but common practice across the whole network.

I’m sure this is not part of a conspiracy by the Government to curtail the lives of our elderly population, but it is all part and parcel of the general lack of concern by West Midlands Travel about the quality of the passenger experience, resulting in what must be one the most miserable in the country. Indeecd, The Economist labelled Birmingham’s public transport system as “shoddy”.

And yet it need not be so.

What we have is a bus service that caters for people who have no other means of travel and for whom the bus company thinks it can dish up something third rate that no other major European city would tolerate. A premier bus service is essential for getting people out of their cars and freeing up the traffic in our clogged up city centre as well improving our air quality and cutting down on the levels of pollution.

For a solution to our troubles look no further than London. Every bus shelter displays the time of the next bus. Within every bus there is a display showing the place name of the next stop accompanied by a voice announcement. Every bus has two doors, one for passengers boarding, one for passengers leaving the bus.

Contrast that with our ramshackle system. You wait for your bus. Is it late or has it been cancelled? You have no idea. The notice says every twenty minutes but you’re not sure when the last one arrived. Hallelujah! – the bus arrives. There’s a queue. People are now impatient and push forward but there are several people needing to get off first, including a wheelchair user and a mother with a pram. Confusion reigns, words are exchanged: a sour start to the journey.

But on boarding the bus there is a throng standing by the door because they don’t want to miss their stop or are too frightened to go upstairs; more shouting and pushing as people try to penetrate the bus’ interior, many marshalling heavy shopping bags and shepherding accompanying small children.

Brummies who rely on the buses to get to work, to go shopping, to visit friends and family are in no position to mount a boycott. People who can avoid them, do. And the bus company with its captive clientele has no incentive to reform and provide a quality service, so everybody loses.

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