This is not a U-Turn. If I'm honest I haven't missed blogging one bit. In fact it's been wonderful to get home and not have to worry about posting. I haven't had to bother about getting pics of new vehicles first, or concern myself about having my news nicked by others. No one promising to help then letting me down or anonymous cowards calling me names. So why the hell have I come back?
Quite simply I was asked. I've had many really nice emails from people I never knew read the blog saying how much they missed it, and I can't express how good that was, and thank you to everyone who has been in touch. However, it is not because of that I was persuaded to re-think my position.
The last people I expected to nag me to start posting again were the very people I criticise - the operators. However they have, and I have had 3 managers contact me saying I should resume. One of them remarkably said he missed the criticism and it was needed. He even broke his ridiculously tough schedule to buy me a pint and tell me. So when the industry I constantly criticise tell me to carry on I feel obliged to listen. Mind you no one has said they'll pay me......
However it's going to be different. I will not be chasing news. The only news I'll be reporting will be news I receive first hand. I will not be concentrating nearly as much on vehicles but on services. The original aim of the blog was to be a voice for transport users, lobbying operators and Councils to maintain and improve services, particularly in rural areas. I veered away from that policy but from now on it will be my priority. The blog will work in conjunction with a new project I have, which is still very much in its formative stage and will involve consulting a lot of people, but will have the aim of improving rural links for everyone, and for multiple purposes, despite the current apathy of our politicians towards rural bus services. Norwich - London in 90 is fine, but how about Leiston - Ipswich in 60? How about Halesworth - Norwich in 45?
One of my main goals is for integrated ticketing, so for example fare payers can travel from Leiston to Saxmundham on First's 64, do their shopping and get BorderBus 521 back if they want JUST LIKE PASS HOLDERS CAN! How can companies bleat about not enough fare payers when they do naff all to give them reasons to spend their money on buses rather than petrol in their cars.
This week has been another bad week with Go-Ahead announcing a series of service cuts across the Konect and Anglian network. The number of vehicles at both companies is to be cut dramatically. The most surprising by far is Konect's decision to scrap the 2/2A between Norwich - Sheringham - Holt less than a month after branding 5 buses for the route in a blaze of publicity. Why didn't they say then the route was at risk? Where were the attempts to attract more passengers to the route with financial incentives? If the route was that poorly patronised why put higher capacity vehicles on it? Just doesn't make sense to me, and I fear most of these cuts have been ordered from up on high rather than local decisions.
So the time has come to act rather than just criticise, and an entirely new approach to bus services and how they are financed is needed. We cannot rely on deregulation coming to East Anglia and it looks highly likely that in 10 years time if you don't live in a town or city you won't know what a bus looks like. It's now or never, and frankly my dears, we have nothing to lose by giving it our all to Save Our Services. I'll certainly be giving it mine.