Saturday 14 December 2013

Half Full or Half Empty? Part the First

Scientists have found evidence of a giant freshwater lake on Mars which may once have supported life.
Mudstones found in a huge crater where the Curiosity Rover landed are believed to have been formed in a lake that may have existed on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years. Analysis shows the lake was probably filled with fresh water millions of years ago; containing necessary elements for life, such as oxygen and carbon. Conditions within the lake would have been perfect for life forms such as chemolithoautotrophs, which on Earth live in caves and around hydrothermal vents, according to the researchers.

So what would a passing chemolithoautotroph from Mars think of the UK's bus industry?
And Manchester, Leeds and many big city operations.


Martin Abrams, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said, “Cuts to bus services are now reaching critical levels. We have seen services lost year on year and with further deep cuts planned next year, some authorities may stop supporting buses altogether. This is a watershed moment. If Government doesn’t take action to help support buses we will see whole networks disappear.”

Whole networks disappear? Scaremongering or realstic? Which is more important for our communities; a good health service, bins emptied weekly, care for the elderly: OR running empty buses round in the evenings and on Sundays?

Of course, we can have both! We just need to pay more tax; and we would all LOVE to do that to preserve essential bus services, wouldn't we? Or we could be like France with higher taxation, cheap, heavily subsidised public transport in the cities and virtually no rural bus service at all?

 Half Full? Half Empty? 

Of course, buses run as a profitable businesss can never provide services at ALL times!
Except, apparently, by Southern Vectis in the industrial and economic success story that is the Isle of Wight. Note: a Christmas Day NETWORK of an hourly service on five main routes PLUS normal Sunday service on Boxing Day and New Year's Day. All these charge normal fares, no "festive" premium.

We are told that the Island Christmas Day network is operated by volunteer staff and the company has no difficulty getting volunteers. We are also told that the Christmas Day operation "does not lose money"; although what costs, marginal or total, are included is not vouchsafed.

For the record, GoAhead, cunningly disguised as Wilts & Dorset cunningly disguised as More, are running buses on Christmas Day for the first time in donkey's years. (Would that be a festive donkey, transferred from a Nativity scene?)
That's it - one route between Poole and Bournemouth; well it's a two-bus start. But at truly festive fares!


Across the water from the Island, in the rural backwater (!) of Portsmouth ...

From First Bus
E1 and E2 are Eclipse services between Gosport and Fareham; so in Portsmouth itself, a limited service on THREE routes!

From Stagecoach
                       but not on Boxing Day?                    

Note also that Island buses run a full evening service on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve (the latter with night buses!) whereas the deprived Porstmothians have to be tucked up at home by 2030.

Don't drink and drive over the Festive Season; just don't go out at all

 Half Full? Half Empty? 

More on this heady, political, philosophical, brain-hurting stuff tomorrow!

Or you could watch day-time television!
 fbb's Advent Calendar for 2013 
Saturday 14th December

After the death of Joshua, the one-time nomadic Hebrews began the lengthy process of adapting to their new life in urban settlements. And thus began the cycle ...
... or perhaps this sort of cycle?
Whatever? The cycle went like this.

The people were doing well
Life was very good.
There was plenty to eat and drink
But their leader died ...
... and they lost their focus
Began to stray from God's way
Things started going badly wrong
They were desperate for help
A dynamic leader emerged
Who rescued them
Persuaded them to turn back to God

And so, the cycle continued.

The Bible, unhelpfully, calls them "judges" and you may know some of them. Deborah won a decisive battle to save the people. Gideon won a decisive battle to rescue the people. Samson (cue Hair, Strength, Delilah, Blind) won a decisive battle to rescue the people (well sort of!)
He's the guy whose hair grew and whose strength returned. He was displayed, ostensibly as a defeated wreck, in a Philistine temple where, invigorated, he pushed down the supporting pillars and squished a whole load of baddies.

These stories are primitive, brutal and often seem devoid of much holiness. But it is the message of the cycle that matters. However hard they tried, the Hebrews couldn't manage on their own; the tendency was to turn away God and, in so doing, vote for disaster.

And look at today. Look what we have done to Christ-mas.
 Next bus blog : Sunday 15th December 


  1. While you say Southern Vectis are not charging premium fates on Christmas Day. Don't they charge premium fares all year round ?

  2. Short journeys, probably! Longer distance fares are comparable with other companies and cheaper than many.

  3. I am always amazed at how early the last trains back from London are on Christmas Eve. Its not just people coming back from London but those who have to travel from places further afield. If you have to work until four or five before you can leave and then have to get to London.

    You list empty buses in the evenings and Sundays as one of societies options for spending. That will depend on where you live. In many shire counties these have already gone or been pushed back to the few that are relatively well used. Its the rural services that are now under threat in frequency, days of operation or totality. Local authorities are now looking to cut all forms of income that operators receive from them (bus service and school contract rates, reimbursement for pupils) and this will increasingly gnaw at what is left. In the dash for encouraging spending in town centres free and reduced car parking is increasingly being introduced.

    The storm is brewing - it will take serious cut backs before the reality is understood (if then) and as usual the bus industry will get the blame.

  4. A point for debate about evening bus services (which extends to lightly-used bus services in general) - I wonder how much more use there would be if people did not take the attitude to their visitors (those who would be willing to use a bus and could find out about it) of "oh the buses are no good round here, I'll come and pick you up" or "oh I couldn't possibly let you use the bus, let Jimmy run you to the station", "if there a bus to my B&B? I'm not sure I haven't used the buses for years - just jump in a taxi". I reckon more of this goes on than you'd think and seriously depletes what could be a useful market base of willing customers who do not wish to rock the boat in social interactions.

  5. it is very rare indeed to find ANY bus information in hotels or B&Bs. Many I have challenged on this say they ask the bus company but nothing ever happens. The few keen TiCs often complain likewise.

  6. Whole networks would be an accurate risk if you get out of the big cities - in the Shire Counties evening & Sunday support has already disappeared we are on to route cuts now (Cumbria, Worcestershire & Wrexham have all proposed cutting support from all tendered bus services recently, Northants have already pretty much done so and Cambridgeshire weren't far off doing similar). Networks in cities like Leeds & Manchester aren't are major risk from Council funding cuts but move out to areas like Rutland, and other rural areas, and whilst all services are not supported, the commercial ones rely on sufficient tendered work around to pay for the depot overheads necessary to maintain the network. Lose too much work and you will no longer be able to support the skeleton of surviving commercial services and we could see whole networks at risk. The added problem is that this austerity agenda aren't just seeing tendered service withdrawals but cuts in BSOG & concessionary fare reimbursement reducing income coinciding with the latest round of emissions legislation increasing the cost of the buses putting more pressure on already stretched commercial operators.

  7. I never understand why buses finish so early on New Years Eve. Surely this is one of the busiest nights of the year? in Milton Keynes there is a night bus service on one route that runs 7 nights a week, apart from NYE?