Happy New Year everyone - that's wishful thinking isn't it on the day 5 train operators are affected by strikes and Ipswich Borough Council announces it's bailing itself out so evening and Sunday bus services in Ipswich can continue. So I thought I'd gaze into the crystal ball and predict what's going to happen this year in the East Anglian area of public transport. We'll start with buses.
Let's be frank here, not even the most optimistic of crystal balls can come up with anything remotely positive for East Anglia regarding bus services. More subsidy cuts loom threatening to cut off yet more isolated rural areas. We are all waiting to see how big the axe is, but an axe there will be. At the same time Reading Buses are introducing gas double decker buses, and Transdev revolutionising bus travel in the North including the most luxurious seating ever seen on buses over here the comparitive apathy will continue. Not that I'm blaming local management who in some cases work miracles with one hand tied behind their backs. But all the time our bus services are dictated from Aberdeen and Newcastle, not to mention how much of our Council Tax is put back into public transport then we stand no chance. There are still no hybrid buses in Suffolk or Norfolk. Go Ahead seem Hell bent on destroying everything they have in the region, First still can't decide on a replacement bus for the E400's on the X1, or XL as it's ridiculously going to be called on the Western side. The modernisation of Ipswich depot STILL hasn't happened meaning 15yo deckers can't be replaced. Speculation over who will buy Ipswich Buses will continue, with no one actually wanting to buy it as Ipswich is such an island and can't be linked up with anywhere else.
I do predict more investment in deckers at Borderbus though. The 146 is really taking off now, as is the 580. Deckers may become necessary. However I do feel that the system of taking passengers into Norwich on deckers to a half hourly frequency only to expect them to tolerate an hourly frequency single deck service to return on needs to be looked at. It could be the 146 is now too popular to be worked around school services, a victim of its own success. With no Anglian around Kessingland now more people, especially tourists will start choosing Beccles and Norwich, and if the service isn't there to cater for them, especially PM then it will be an opportunity missed. If First have any sense they will restore the Kessingland - Yarmouth through service vacated by Anglian as the Pontins crowd like that. Either that or Borderbus introduce a Kessingland - Beccles - Yarmouth service incorporating the 580. There are openings for the courageous out there, but is anyone courageous enough?
From an enthusiast's point of view East Anglia will become less and less attractive. There really is nothing in the region now to whet the appetite compared to other parts of the country. Hate to say it but it's true.
So let's switch to the railways. Here we have total confusion. Every TOC you listen to is boasting of investing in new rolling stock. Nothing to do with the fact DDA for trains comes into force in 2020 then, which means no more slam doors anywhere, or toilets that dump onto tracks, and disabled facilities in every train. Or that the Department of Transport has dictated that the most uncomfortable seats in the history of railways be installed on the new trains. Yes, the government decide on the new rolling stock specification, not the operating companies. So when you board one of the gleaming new Greater Anglia trans next year don't blame them. The new trains won't stop the regular signal and points faiures, late running freight trains or bridge bashes either, you'll just be delayed in less comfort. Guards or no guards, how many more strikes before common sense makes a breakthrough. Until then we still have the Class 37 hauled short set for another year, regular test trains, excursions and charter trains to keep us amused, although I'll be surprised if we have the Flying Scotsman, Tornado and Union of South Africa visit our shores in the same year again! Make the most of the variety of rolling stock on offer this year, as next year it will become very 2 dimensional.
Well that's all very depressing isn't it. Sorry about that. If anyone can find a glimmer of positivity around feel free to let me know and I'll be overjoyed to publicise it Is Essex any better this side of Chelmsford? What are the solutions to bring public transport in this region out of the doldrums? Will I be able to feel more upbeat this time next year? Discuss!