First of all I'm grateful to Phil Kelly for alerting me to a BBC article confirming what we all know, that subsidised bus services have been cut by more than 12% in the past year. The past year? I'm guessing here but I'd say here in East Anglia over the last 6 years they've probably been cut by more like 70%. Even the on demand services brought in to replace subsidised buses have been cut, so we all know it's not good.
So it was interesting to read what the response of the caring souls at the Department of Transport was;
"The Department for Transport said it was working with local transport companies to improve services and boost the use of buses."
Now I flatter myself in that I keep my ear pretty close to the ground and as yet haven't heard a thing about the DofT working with any transport companies. So I contacted one of the many managers I know to ask his opinion of the Department's statement. After a period of consideration and reflection he replied simply
No elaboration needed there. It seems the main problem is due to the wrong kind of passenger. You see holders of Concessionary Passes are having the nerve to use them. This means the operators need paying for conveying these leeches, and the Councils simply can't afford it as the Government won't give them enough money. So why won't the government cough up? My source continued;
"If the Conc scheme was fully funded by central government it would relieve the pressure on county budgets. The difficulty would be protecting/ring fencing that money to subsidise loss-making rural services."
In other words Councils would use the money to repair schools, keep OAP homes open, filling potholes etc. How very dare they. Of course it's totally justifiable and so any money for bus services would have to be ring-fenced, if it was legal to do so. If it was, however, I can already hear the stampede of other pressure groups heading for Westminster with their own begging bowls which undoubtedly have just as much credence as the bus subsidy bowl does.
But we can't carry on as we are. As my source continued;
"The money wouldn't be ring-fenced but the point is well made that the concessionary scheme is woefully underfunded leading to the bizarre situation where people have passes but no service to use them on!"
Tell me about it.
So several mulberry bushes later we reach the same conclusion. Scrap the Concessionary scheme is an option but no Government is going to risk the unpopularity that would ensue. The same would apply if passes were restricted to the County of issue, especially for those on a border. Charging per journey is one option, but I imagine the admin involved - who paid what on what and was it commercial/subsidised etc would be extreme. And so I'm left with what I have been promoting for years now. Charge an annual fee for passes, then holders can use them as and when they wanted - including before 0930 school holidays. That would generate money to subsidise more services, which COULD be ring-fenced, remembering that Councils wouldn't have to pay for journeys made on services they have already paid for, and any fares taken could be ploughed back into the system. More services would encourage more passengers on both subsidised and commercial services. The decline of the last 6 years has GOT to be reversed.
One stat that caught my eye in the article was this. There has been a lot of publicity recently about overcrowding on trains, and the need for more capacity. There are still three times more bus journeys made everyday than train journeys. That stat has since disappeared from the article, which can be read in full here.
There have been a few repaints. First Norwich ex Leeds Volvo B9tl 36193 is now in Red Line livery, completing the rainbow of colours at Norwich. I can feel a dedicated post coming on that subject.
Hedingham Buses tweeted this morning a picture of ex Konect Volvo B7tl Gemini 513, which only a few weeks ago was on loan to Anglian. It has been repainted in Hedingham colours and looks quite good. It is expected to be joined by two more of the batch, allocated to Sible depot.
|Ex Konect 513 LB02 YXE|
|Ex Norfolk Norse PN03 UMC pic (c) Liv Rayment|
|Nearside view pic (c) Liv Rayment|
If you recall I was intending to catch up with the Orange Optare Metrodecker demonstrator which has recently been on loan to Beestons of Hadleigh. Unfortunately it was only used while I was away but Beestons have told me that it was well received and liked by passengers and drivers alike, and they are hoping to get the Blue demonstrator soon.
Yesterday, if only for 4 stops while in Lowestoft I travelled on one of First Lowestoft's refurbished Volvo B9 Geminis - 37563 - and have to say the extra legroom upstairs was very noticeable. A great idea to remove one set of seats each side and the two tone leather looks much better. Will have to get a longer ride soon.
As you will all know it's Remembrance weekend, and once again Southeastern trains laid on a special train to commemorate the event. A Class 395 Javelin was vinyled up - 395016 this year, and sent to places not normally served by Javelins. This included Brighton, and I'm grateful to Moleman978 on Twitter for allowing me to use his quite extraordinary picture, which shows the Southeastern Javelin next to a Thameslink Class 700 and Southern Class 377 Electrostar. Not a combination you're likely to see again anytime soon.
|The Regency Javelin next to Thameslink 700 and Southern 377. pic (c) Moleman978|
Not sure where this is but could be Ramsgate before departure.
Well done to Southeastern. I know a lot of money was raised last year. Since the Javelins are able to operate on both AC and DC lines is there any reason they can't be used on more tours? Apart from being Standard Class only of course!
While on the subject or remembering I'm sure our thoughts and prayers go to friends and relatives of the victims of the Croydon Tram tragedy. It was obvious pretty quickly what had caused the tram to tip over, but could take time to ascertain why it was going that fast. The first tram deaths in over half a century. It is impossible to imagine what those involved are going through and I hope they can all find the strength they need to cope.
That's it for this post. It's all very quiet out there right now so more posts as and when. The gas bus specials are scheduled for the Christmas period btw, when it will be even quieter!. Take care all.