Tag: bus

An odd way to help

The government has recently announced that it is giving Swindon Borough Council an extra £428,873.52 — yes, the figures are calculated down to individual pennies — of tax payers’ money (or more accurately, given the way the government has squandered our money, of tax payers’ debt). According to the government press release, there are no strings attached to this money.

Local Government Minister John Healey has today confirmed that 360 councils will receive their share of £100million within the next few days, to be used as they see fit to help meet local needs and priorities – particularly helpful in this difficult economic climate.

Naturally, the government’s representative in South Swindon, Ms Snelgrove, has been quick to comment.

I am calling on Swindon Borough Council to use this money to save Old Town and Walcot Libraries and look at how the Groundwell Park & Ride can be kept open…. I will be asking the Council for full details of how they intend to spend this money and to make sure it isn’t swallowed up within the Council.

’Tis an odd choice that. Now, as I’ve made clear, I’m no fan of the proposals to close the Park & Ride service. I don’t find Mr Edwards’ latest argument for not supporting the service convincing either, as it’s far better to seek a long term future for the service with it still running than with it closed. However, though both it and the library closures have received plenty of publicity, they affect relatively few of Ms Snelgrove’s constituents — particularly the Park & Ride service which is in Mr Wills’ patch. Something that affects far more of her constituents but has received far less publicity is the sharp increase in the cost of Residents’ Parking Permits. On that, Ms Snelgrove has nothing to say. And I say that as someone that neither lives in a Residents’ Parking zone nor owns a car.

It really shouldn’t surprise Ms Snelgrove that she’s known as the government’s representative in South Swindon when she chooses to support issues for their political point scoring value rather than for their impact on her constituents.

Listening isn’t talking

Mr Bluh seems to have some very basic misunderstandings of communication.

We said we would listen to them and that is what we have done, even if they didn’t like everything they heard.

Hint to Mr Bluh: if you’re listening, it’s you that should be doing the hearing, not the other way round. But then if, as has been reported, the staff at Groundwell Park & Ride have already been made redundant, the whole ‘listening’ exercise was a sham anyway.

Jam tomorrow

It must seem like an unfortunate bit of timing for the blue nest councillors controlling Swindon Borough Council that, whilst they are attempting to axe the Park & Ride bus service, for a claimed saving of £331,000, that unnecessary and unelected bureaucracy known as the South West Regional Assembly has decided to chuck £150M in the direction of Swindon for transport improvements. Our developers’ poodle, Mr Bawden, seems pleased with this outcome, despite the embarrassment that it might cause his colleagues. The expenditure includes £22M and £111M for phases 1 & 2 respectively of the Swindon Rapid Transit Network. Phase 1 concentrates on ‘traffic management’ — so more roundabouts and traffic lights. Phase 2 concentrates on public transport.

Development of a two tier public transport network with rapid transit corridors; increase in bus routes covering most areas of Swindon; exploring technology options for rapid transit corridor.

Both phases claim to address the issue of ‘Existing P&R schemes under utilised.’ If the current administration in Swindon gets its way, they won’t just be under utilised; they’ll be non-existent.

Off the buses

I find Mr Greenhalgh’s reasoning, if one can call it that, for proposing closure of the Groundwell Park and Ride odd.

We either make savings where we can or we put up council tax.

That didn’t seem to cross your mind when you voted to put up your own allowances.

While the park and ride is an excellent service we are losing a lot of money because it is simply not covering its costs.

Until last year, Thamesdown Transport ran the park and ride bus service for a fee and Swindon Borough Council kept the profit or suffered the loss, depending on how successful the service was. Then that was changed so that, like any other bus service, the bus company runs the services that are profitable and keeps the profit from them, whilst the council subsidises the loss making ones. As parking in the park-and-ride car park is free, the council have, of their own choice, changed the funding arrangement to one where by definition they are guaranteed to make a loss and the bus company guaranteed to make a profit. It doesn’t cover its costs because you’ve set-up contractual arrangements that guarantee that, Mr Greenhalgh.

The number using the service is not that great so I don’t think the effect on traffic will be huge.

That seems to contradict the assessment in the council’s own budget proposals.

“There is some risk that this proposal may impact on our Local Transport Plan assessment and the ability of the Council to secure regional/national funding for future transport schemes. There may also be some impact on general bus network as the operator will lose profit from these services.”

Translated from public sector bureaucracy-speak, that’s quite huge.

We have good parking facilities in the town centre and while this is not an ideal situation it is something we have to look at.

And I’m sure that the knowledge that you’ll make much more money from charging them to park there had no influence on your decision….

This would not be a permanent move and hopefully there will be a change in government and Swindon will be given the kind of funding it needs.

To quote from the council’s own budget proposals again.

“This proposal may impact on our Local Transport Plan assessment and the ability of the Council to secure regional/national funding for future transport schemes.”

Regardless of the colour of the government, a habit of abandoning facilities in an ill considered financial panic is hardly a way of encouraging government to spend taxpayers’ money here.

Surveys for nothing, fares for a fortune

Exact fare pleaseI’ve no idea how Mr Wills thinks pollsters earn their living, but apparently it’s not from running surveys. In what is becoming an annual argument over free travel for pensioners, he seems to think that Swindon Borough Council can obtain a survey for nothing.

In these difficult economic times I am not asking the council to spend more money but only to conduct a survey to see whether passengers can get what they are asking for without any extra burden on the taxpayer.

Surveys cost money… unless you want something that’s so poor as to not be worth the effort. It also doesn’t take much thought to work out that, if some pensioners are currently paying to travel before 9.30 am — which the comments in the Adver report show they are — then giving them free travel will cost the taxpayer money.

Whether or not the extra cost’s as much as the £230,000 claimed by Mr Bluh is another matter. That figure corresponds to roughly 2700 extra pensioners travelling in the extra half hour each week.

Half and ride

Mr Jenkins of Thamesdown Transport claims that he wants to promote the park and ride bus services.

Both the council and ourselves feel that this is the best way forward to provide a park and ride service for Swindon. This is a very positive move and one that will secure the long-term future of park and ride in Swindon. It’s a very popular service and we really want to promote it during the off-peak times of the day.

By ‘promote’ he clearly means ‘advertise’ rather than ‘encourage more people to use’ as, upon taking over the service, Thamesdown Transport have cut it in half and on the northern half have increased the fares and decreased the frequency. Passengers on the southern half get a somewhat better deal with fares reduced, but the frequency is reduced as well and change will no longer be given. The northern half of the service is clearly being milked, not promoted.

There’s nothing wrong with making changes to improve profitability; there is plenty wrong with trying to pretend that you’re not.

A one way ticket

Thamesdown busesIt seems odd to me that Thamesdown Transport’s latest fares rise has caused more fuss than their planned route changes, especially as it earlier plans for these route changes ran into so much political opposition. Leading the fuss, step forward Mr Montaut, continuing his approach of not allowing a lack of knowledge on an issue get in the way of him expressing an opinion.

This is deplorable. What the company needs to do is start focusing more on customers and getting people on their buses and less on their own income. The traditional return fare is offered all over the country, but now it is being axed in Swindon. I have the feeling that if Thamesdown continues to act in this fashion pressure groups are going to start popping up for the buses like they have on trains and planes. The thing is, though, if the company acted more responsibly it would not have to come to this.

Absense of return bus fares is actually not that uncommon. As an example Nottingham City Transport which, like Thamesdown Transport is council owned and also like Thamesdown Transport has a no-change-given exact fare only policy, does not offer return fares. And whilst nobody would disagree that Thamesdown Transport should try to get more passengers on its buses, if it ignores its income we, the council taxpayers of Swindon, will end up the owners of a loss-making company. Perhaps Mr Montaut has forgotten his earlier concerns about the level of subsidy paid to the bus company.

The fares increases proposed range from zero (for a single zone single) through 5% for a single zone return journey and 7% for a two zone single, to 11% for a two zone return journey. Day tickets and season tickets are increasing by between 7% and 12%. Fares increases that are so high that passenger numbers by so much that the bus company ends up worse off are not clever. But with motorists costs rising steeply too, I’d describe these fares increases as predictable, rather than deplorable.

A double deck imagination

Always ones to make a crisis out of a drama, the Adver have excelled themselves, allowing one woman’s imagination to turn a minor accident (one wheel of a bus going off the road) into a near tragedy.

Melody Lyall, the landlady at the Red Lion Pub, in Castle Eaton, said it was a very near miss. “The only thing that kept that bus upright was a small wall that it wedged itself against, otherwise it would have tipped over into a flooded field. Because both the front doors were on that side things could have turned very bad very quickly. It was quite dramatic. I was in my conservatory drinking my morning coffee and I witnessed the whole thing. The field on the other side is flooded at the moment – it is under several feet of water. You can imagine the outcome if it had toppled over…. I would have said they were pretty lucky as it would have been tough to get them all out of that bus without it going over on its side.”

Wow! Children safely alight from a bus with one wheel in a ditch. Whatever next? I dropped a slice of bread on the floor recently. Perhaps I should ask the Adver round to see how close I came to starvation in the time it took me to cut another slice….

A day on the buses

A Fleetline on Fleming Waykomadori joined the many others marking the last day of Thamesdown’s Fleetline buses in Swindon, in aid of Prospect Hospice. Amongst the general chit-chat, he heard this:

What’s a boss? It’s someone who sits doing nothing behind a desk all day, and claims they’re why the company’s a success.

All the best conversation is on Swindon’s buses.

An unbreakable partnership

It seems that hardly a week passes at the moment without yet another local government partnership crawling into sight.

And what has brought them to my attention? Their suggestion, at least ten years after it was introduced in many other towns, that glass in bus shelters could be replaced by clear polycarbonate, to reduce vandalism. It’s nice to see such quick thinking.