When I was a boy doing my enthusing on Invictaway to and from London the only blot on the landscape was Victoria Coach Station. Dirty, hot or cold depending on the season, crowded, poor information and running the gauntlet of moving vehicles to get to your coach. In the late 80's when a coach driver myself the worst and most frustrating place I ever picked up was Victoria Coach Station.
Fast forward 25 years and over recent weeks thanks to Megabus my horizons have expanded and the country has been reopened for me. This has meant travelling via London and Victoria Coach Station. It has also felt like travelling back in time as nothing, I repeat nothing has changed. The heat in the un-airconditioned departures building was so intense people were standing on the concourse, getting in the way of vehicles. The "information" boards, although modern looking still had naff all information on them. It costs 30p to have a pee and the loos are hardly anything luxurious. The small refreshment outlets are more expensive than those at Victoria Railway Station (believe me that's saying something), and the majority of staff treat passengers with contempt and requests for information are deemed an inconvenience.
|Victoria Coach Station on a quiet day, but the looks of resignation are strangely familar|
I was told that TfL make as fortune out of Victoria Coach Station and I can see why as they have clearly spent very little on it in half a century. The trouble is they know there is no viable alternative at present and that is a problem. VCS is in a central location and to move to a purpose built hub further out wouldn't make it as convenient. However maybe a transfer hub so people connecting to other services don't have to go through London might be an option and would reduce the number of people passing through VCS. It is time some heads got together and did some serious thinking. VCS is decades behind the times and spoils what otherwise is a pretty good travelling experience. We see tube stations transformed, new rolling stock, a multi-billion pound Crossrail project and so on, yet those who choose to travel by coach are still treated like 18th Century peasants, and have the facilities to match. It is a disgrace, and TfL, along with those companies who are happy to tolerate those conditions should be ashamed.
We all know that coach passengers (barring your goodself, naturally) aren't ones to splash the cash, unlike the businessmen on expenses who frequent the airport lounges and railway concourses. So where's the money to be made to keep the Mayor happy?ReplyDelete
Mate I am one of the tightest people going - I will find an empty train rather than spend 20p to pee in a station! But coach travel is really taking off again thanks to the likes of Megabus who are making it fashionable again and taking away the old lady with whicker basket and Werthers Originals image that National Express have had for so long. The cost of car insurance for the young means a lot of them are leaving it later to drive, and the cost of rail travel is prohibitive to a lot of people - myself included in the main so more are taking to the coach - even my 9.30 last Friday from London to Norwich was 85% full which really surprised me.ReplyDelete
Therefore it only makes sense that with an expanding business the passengers are nurtured and encouraged, not put off by buildings and facilities that are a complete insult. I'm not sure how many of those First Class businessmen will be regular travellers on the new Circle Line trains either!
Unless they have finally got rid of them, don't forget the wonderful VCS pigeons who wander and flutter around the seating area...ReplyDelete
Sorry Simon but the VCS pigeons are still there in numbers! Seems the only place Ken and Boris have managed to get rid of pigeons is the one place the tourists flocked to see them!Delete
JohnDBus here again. Couldn't agree more about this coach station. I have to go to London every two years and the coach station is filthy. Pigeons pecking around, hygienic place to eat and drink? Nah. I enjoy bus spotting, would love more comfortable surroundings to do it in whilst waiting for the bus back to Norfolk.
Yes Steve, so who pays for the improvements: the passengers or the London taxpayer? I can think of many good reasons why the answer is "neither". And what do you do with the coaches whilst the work is carried out? Just for a bit of fun: have a go at the Department of Transport and see where that gets us. That's the problem! The long distance coach business has been popular and growing for decades. Political profile: zero. No competition with the NHS, the schools and the train sets. (Thank goodness the state of all of them, at least in this region, probably).ReplyDelete
Well yes that is the conundrum, and I have a feeling TfL know that all too well. they can't go anywhere so we're onto a winner seems to be the attitude. Mind you they've been looking for a use for Battersea Power Station for ages now - a temporary coach station while Victoria gets a big makeover, with airport style shuttle buses transferring passengers to Victoria Rail Station.ReplyDelete
There you go - problem solved. I am available for consultancy work.
Oh one more thing - how much money does TfL make each year from tourists? That money could be used to renovate VCS so the poor London taxpayers don't have to foot the bill.Delete
Steve, would love the opportunity to provide you with a practical repsonse and prehaps a tour of station to show the improvements we have made and are planning. Get in touch with me the GM at the Coach Station address and I would be happy to arrange. firstname.lastname@example.orgReplyDelete
Now if only all companies I criticised had this response! I would be delighted to accept your offer and look forward immensely to meeting you and finding out what the future is for VCS and most importantly the passengers who pass through it. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to get in touch and for commenting.ReplyDelete