Friday 18 April 2014

fbb Gets Political - Ooh-er!

Like many rural areas, huge parts of Wales are facing the probability (certainty?) of cuts to the funding for their bus services. A BBC news video clip can be viewed (here) together with extra editorial text.

Wales is struggling with its bus services. There are problems with reimbursement for Senior Citizens' free travel; the replacement for the former Fuel Tax rebate and the overall level of money available for "tendered" services.
The biggest bus operator in Wales is to close its depot at Brynmawr in the Gwent valleys in July, putting 77 jobs under threat. Stagecoach is blaming a "misguided" drop in funding from the Welsh government and reduced local authority investment in bus services. It said cuts to routes in Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf will follow.
South Wales managing director John Gould said the cuts in Welsh government funding were "directly responsible" for potential job losses from the depot's closure.

 fbb's recent mini-break in Abergynolwyn illustrates the problem beautifully. The village still has a pub, the "Railway" ...
... the shop has been closed for several years ...
... and the superb community cafe has recently lost its limited-hours post office counter.
cafe with Post Office sign binned
In 2010 the village primary school closed when the 12 pupils transferred to Bryncrug.

The nearest town is Tywyn and a minimalist bus service is provided by Lloyds of Machynlleth, supported (heavily?) by Gwynedd county council.
The 1638 does not run on Saturdays.

From Tywyn we have ...
... of which the 0800 and 1710 do not run on Saturdays. Depending on your choice of journey, you have between one and three hours to do your shopping. There are some additional trips on schooldays.

Whilst awaiting the thrill of a day's family fun, fbb took a look at the 0920 arrival ...
... empty (as expected); it turns by reversing ...
... and departs.
Of the six clustered round the door, two were not travelling but just having a chat, three travelled "free" ("Senior" passes) and only one paid a fare, namely the gent in the check shirt. The only other village en route is Bryncrug, also served by the X28 which offers four trips along the coast from Tywyn to Dolgellau.

Opportunities for growing the business are not great!

Publicity is poor with no printed infrormation available locally. Times are displayed on the bus tops ...
... implying that the service runs through to Dolgellau, which it does but rarely! Because the confuser thinks the route runs all the way to Dolgellau, every journey except the 1725NS has an explanatory note. How to confuse passengers in one easy lesson; it would be clearer if Gwynedd's little man (or woman) stuck up a timetable.

The frame offers the unhelpful and expensive Traveline (phone 0871 ZOO ZZ33 from the expensive phone box opposite!) and ...
... the txt number but with no txt code to txt for the stop. It matters not 'cos there's no mobile phone signal! And there is no bus map for Gwynedd county anywhere.

For the record, the 1648 to Tywyn picked up  0  passengers, set down  0  passengers and carried  1  through passenger. It whizzed through so fast that a stubby-fingered fbb was too, well, stubby fingered to take a photo; just wondering why up-to-date electronic stuff is so much slower that a box Brownie!

The 1725 arrival from Tywyn (the commuter run?) deposited  0 , picked up  0  and carried  0  through passengers; but did "wait time" for a sufficient effluxion of minutes to allow your chubby blogger to poke and prod his phone camera into action.
The paucity of passengers provoked fbb into remembering a poem by Thomas Gray (1716 to 1771), famous for his churchyard allergy.
The wristwatch tolls the knell of fading day,
The bleating flock winds slowly o'er the lea,
The shepherd homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to buses and to me.
Now comes the speeding 30 on the sight,
And all the airs a great excitement hold,
Say, who will board and who alight?
But zero folk is all that we behold.
Why service yonder ivy-mantled tow'rs?
An empty bus runs to and fro each day.
Of travellers bereft for sev'ral hours,
Financially it sure can never pay.

Clearly, the parsimonious politicians could find sound statistical support for slashing the service, leaving only the school and college day trips. Whilst this might save money from the transport budget, it could well increase costs in other areas. More social care needed? More depressed and lonely people? Ambulances and hospital cars needed? More cars on the road? More environmental damage?

It seems entirely possible that the overall cost to the community will increase.
Press release issued yesterday

A new operator has been appointed to run the Park & Ride service in Taunton. The service is run from two sites at Gateway and Silk Mills and runs peak and off peak buses into the town centre.

Somerset County Council is pleased to announce that The Buses of Somerset will be the new interim contractor from Tuesday 22 April, taking over from Webberbus.

The County Council has been closely monitoring the Taunton Park & Ride service for several months following complaints about late and missing buses, particularly in the evenings and has now taken the necessary decision to change the contractor of this service.
Cllr Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “Taunton’s Park & Ride service is vitally important to the town and we were disappointed to hear reports of poor service. We want the best for our customers and have taken this firm action to make sure they receive a more reliable service in the future."

This is the second time that fbb has reported a "falling-out" between Webberbus and Somerset Council. Is there a deeper problem here?
 7 of 9 Easter Oddities 
Good Friday?

An innocent man is arrested clandestinely at night, condemned by an illegal court, passed ignominiously from Roman to Jewish authorities (and back) for fake sentencing, tortured and then nailed in agony to a substantial chunk of timber.
Good Friday?

The Friday could only be "good" if it produced good. The Christian message is both profound and delightfully simple. There is deep theology and some very basic human truths. The offer of forgiveness fulfills a deep-seated universal human need. The strength that comes from a real faith is a potent provision for everyday life but the real joy is in a confidence in a secure eternity. In our increasingly cynical and materialistic world, these things can be easily dismissed as "religious drivel".

The oddity of all oddities is that Good Friday could so easily be the biggest drivel of all.

But millions (about 2.1 thousand million and growing) continue to follow the leadership of a crucified and, apparently on Good Friday, very dead failure.

Really odd!
 Next bus blog : Saturday 19th April 


  1. And on May 16th in North Yorkshire, the long-established traditional independent Pennine Motors of Skipton is ceasing completely, blaming poor free travel funding from North Yorkshire County Council as the final straw.

  2. The phrase that comes to mind from your story about the Tywyn-Minfordd bus service is "Use it or lose it". The simple fact is, with those numbers of passengers, it would be cheaper for the council to pay for a taxi - and environmentally preferable as well.