Tuesday 7 June 2011

Are you Sitting Comfortably?

Then I'll begin ...
Rupert lives, as we all know, in a lovely little cottage in Nutwood. And his part time job is in Bigtown, which is a long, long 23 miles away. Sadly, Rupert does not drive a car; this is just pretend ...
... so his bosses very kindly send him a pretty yellow and red taxi to take him to his work.
This return taxi ride costs 102 shiny gold coins which would be a lot of money for Rupert. But his kind bosses give him all the money back. In some years Rupert has collected as much as 5,000 gold coins to help him do his part-time job. We do not know exactly what Rupert does at Bigtown, but he does spend a lot of time chatting to his chums in a very big posh room.
Rupert is very happy!
But the editor of the Nutwood News is not happy at all.
He thinks Rupert should go by bus to Bigtown. That would cost only a few gold coins each day.  In fact, because Rupert is now much older than his publicity photographs show ...
He could probably use his bus pass and travel entirely free.  What a jolly jape that would be.  And, although it is Rupert's boss who pays for the taxi, he is using the gold coins collected from the people of Nutwood. So, if Rupert travelled for free, the folk who live in Nutwood would have more money for other things.  They could repair the leaky roof of the village school or mend the toilets in the village square. See here, Rupert with his bus pass in its shiny leather case.
Alan, our Northampton correspondent, writes:-

"The local evening paper has once again reported on the story of Rupert, not the bear with the yellow scarf and red jumper, but Northamptonshire County Councillor Rupert Reichhold.
Rupert lives here in the picturesque East Northamptonshire town of Oundle.
He does not drive and although Oundle has an hourly direct X4 bus service to Northampton he takes a taxi to council meetings, the £102 cost of which he claims as expenses. He has claimed between £3,000 and £5,000 each year for the last six years for travel and subsistence [that's tea and buns - fbb]. Being "of a certain age" [boo to euphemisms, he is 73 - fbb] the return bus trip from County Hall to Oundle would be free, using his bus pass; and if his meeting did not start before mid-day the trip from Oundle to County Hall would be free as well."

And the bus stop is only 5 minutes away from his front door.  Alan continues ...
"In mitigation, Rupert used to be a civil servant at the Department for Transport; a place where lurk several folks with strange ideas about buses and trains (e.g Cambridge Misguided Busway, Inter City Express Project, Moderation of Competition). In the year from April 2010 to March 2011 Rupert and his chums on Northamptonshire county council claimed £1.16 million in allowances and expenses. They have budgeted a measly £1 million for public transport subsidy this year."

Each panel of a Rupert Bear story came with a suitable little verse; like this one:-

"The taxi comes just when I call, and off I go to County Hall.
About the cost I can relax, it's paid for from the council tax."

From 2001 to 2009 County Councillor Rupert's assignments included Fostering Panel, Personnel Committee and Assistant Cabinet Member, Transport. (You really couldn't make it up!)

fbb wonders whether it would be a good idea NOT to pay any councillors (anywhere, not just in Northamptonshire) for car expenses, or provide free parking, but issue them all with a free bus pass.  What effect might that have, muses fbb, on their political decisions about public transport?

Neither fbb, nor the local "rag", has any knowledge of a telling medical reason why Rupert cannot travel by bus. It will take twice as long as than the taxi, of course, but councillors are there to serve the public. Here is one way in which one councillor could do better. And learn a bit about public transport as well!

Next blog : due Wednesday June 8th  


  1. Rupert Reichhold is not alone, there are others in a similar situation. It opens a debate as to whether a taxi is public transport or not. Some will claim it is, especially as taxis are frequently permitted to use bus lanes.

  2. I would certainly consider taxis to be part of the public transport system - after all, they are transport that is available to the public!

    As far as politicians' expenses are concerned, I guess there needs to be an adequate number of competent staff checking the claims and ensuring that value for money is being obtained for the taxpayer. Unfortunately, I guess it would need to be the councillors themselves who would have to determine that there would be an obligation to always use the cheapest possible alternative, and they might not be very keen to do that. In any case, cheapest is not necessarily always best.

  3. Disagree RC169. A taxi is no more public than a private car; as any given journey is not available to the public once booked. Is a hired car part of the public transport system? : It is available to the public!

  4. FBB - an unbooked (if that word exists!) taxi is available to any member of the public. Yes, of course a particular taxi journey is not available to the public once booked (nor is a bus that is full!), but if another member of the public wants a taxi for the same journey (or a different one), then they simply book the next taxi that is free.

    As far as hired cars are concerned, that is perhaps debatable, as certain additional conditions have to be fulfilled in order for a member of the public to use one (i.e. they need to have a driving license). However, it is fairly clear that the German railways consider hire cars to be a part of the public transport system, as their 'Car Sharing' system is essentially an hire facility:-


    Having worked in the bus industry myself, I know that taxis may be seen as competitors to buses, and this is to some extent true. However, I have to say that the DB approach seems more enlightened, as they are attempting to promote and facilitate a door-to-door service, with a combination of trains, buses, taxis, hire-cars, or even bikes available to cater for the passenger's complete requirement. If a public transport operator simply offers his own service, from the predetermined stopping points (railway stations, bus stops, etc), and leaves the passenger to find their own way to and from the origin and destination of their journey to those stopping places, then they cannot be too surprised when people decide to use their own car, etc, for the whole journey.