Monday, 19 March 2012

Alabama May Ban Bus Drivers from Using Phones

We Brits are now more or less used to the idea that using a mobile phone when you are driving is a generally 'bad thing' and against the law.

So it might come as a considerable shock to discover that in America things are very, very different.

A story I picked up recently from US media demonstrated that in many states it is not only perfectly acceptable for a bus driver to chat to his wife on the phone whilst piloting a busload of children to school, it's perfectly legal.

But things seem to be slowly changing. The latest state to have had a long, hard think about the wisdom of letting bus drivers chat to their pals when they should be concentrating on the road ahead is Alabama. The southern state is now looking to join an increasing number of US states that prohibit school bus drivers from using mobile phones while transporting children around the state.

Alabama's House of Representatives passed a bill last Wednesday which will mean that school bus drivers can only use their phones in an emergency or if the bus is parked at the side of the road.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Joe Hubbard, who warned of accidents that could be caused by a bus driver calling his girlfriend or texting her pictures. He said the impetus for his bill was a phone he received from a constituent worried that her child's school bus driver was too distracted by talking on his cellphone to enough attention to the road.

Ironically, it would have been entirely legal for her to make that call while driving. Let's hope she didn't.

Some 19 states in America, and the District of Columbia, currently prohibit drivers of school buses from talking on their phones while transporting children. That's 19 out of 50 states, so you can see there's still some way to go.

On the face of it, a federal Department of Transportation rule seems to prevent any commercial vehicle driver from using a mobile electronic device whilst driving, but that applies only to vehicles that cross state lines or transport hazardous materials within a state, which seems a little arbitrary.

The Alabama bill still needs to be approved by the state Senate and then signed off by the Governor before it can become law.

I understand there were 260 reported accidents caused by Alabama school bus drivers during the last academic year, down from 301 the pervious school year. Of those in the most recent school year, 63 were cause by a distracted bus driver.

First Group Sell London Bus Depot

FirstGroup has sold its 130-vehicle Northumberland Park depot in north-east London.

The depot's 130 buses, 13 routes and around 400 staff will transfer to the North East-based Go Ahead.

Experts reckon that the sale should really suit Go-Ahead, whose bus operations are concentrated in London and the south-east and who should be able to use the depot to help it to increase its operating margins.

It makes economic sense to First Group, too. The £14m sale to Go-Ahead Group will go some way to meeting the £100m-£115m cash target FirstGroup has set itself for the current financial year.

However, things aren't gig as quickly as the company would like. Frst Group is concerned that regulatory concerns are slowing its disposal programme after last week's deal to sell its bus operations in north Devon to Stagecoach for £2.8m was only completed pending the approval of the Office of Fair Trading. The company reckons that previously a deal that size would probably never have come under such close scrutiny.

First Group are clearly working hard to reduce its eye-wateringly large debt of around £2bn which it built up after a series of acquisitions such as the takeover of Greyhound buses in the US. Industry insiders reckon that the company is trying to make itself more attractive in time for the next round of rail franchises after the government stated that it will be looking for companies to take longer contracts and who will therefore need to show that they can withstand difficult years.

FirstGroup currently operates the Great Western, TransPennine Express, Capital Connect and Hull train lines as well as ScotRail.

'Humanitarian' Bus Operator Secures Fare Cuts

For everyone who is presently wailing and gnashing their teeth over fare increases, and there are lots of you out there, here is evidence at last that there is somewhere in this world where bus operators seem prepared to think kindly of their passengers.

My sources in Manila tell me that despite rising fuel prices – yes, even in The Philippines – one bus operator has successfully applied to have its fares... reduced.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) – a sort of Philippino PTE, I suppose - agreed to a petition filed by Rural Transit, Inc to reduce its bus fares in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan by around a half.

And it won't just affect their own services – other operators serving the same route will also have to charge the same reduced fares. The fare reduction is effective immediately.

And the reason the bus operator asked to reduce its fares? Well, it was to provide humanitarian assistance to the residents of the two cities which were badly hit by tropical storm “Sendong” last year.

Needless to say, the LTFRB were deeply impressed by the operator’s public spirit in foregoing profit to provide humanitarian assistance to the riding public.

“In this time of crisis affecting the lives of our countrymen, every form of help and assistance, how little or big it is, that can mitigate the impact of the effect of disaster should be accepted, or at least be welcomed,” the LTFRB said.

“The petitioner should be commended for taking action for fare reduction in this time of crisis for it is not financially viable on their part on the business side,” the Board added.

Is that what they call 'caring capitalism', do you think? And if so, do you think we could have some?

Let's not all hold our breaths....

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Bus Drivers Fined for Using Wrong Side of the Road

I've previously blogged about motorists using bus lanes illegally and I'm sure we've all had a nice, self-satisfied 'tut-tut-tut' about it.

Take the bus lane in Stoke-on Trent, the abuse of which resulted in 5,600 car drivers receiving penalty tickets, and which was eventually scrapped by the council. I blogged about that one on 21 February, but I've come across others, too.

Like Leeds, where they've had to roll out special CCTV cameras to encourage motorists keep their cars out of the city's bus lanes.

Now, all of this might be construed as being slightly anti-motorist and I have to admit that it certainly looks that way. So I was slightly relieved – and tickled, frankly – to come across a tiny snippet on the This Is Nottingham news website.

If nothing else, it demonstrates that bus drivers are every bit as human as other motorists.

Local police, it seems, have had to warn the city's bus drivers about travelling up the wrong side of a street in the city centre. And it's clearly not a one-off incident.

Police officers were told about this particular problem by members of the public who presumably have witnessed it ad felt compelled to complain. The police have also been speaking to local businesses.

In fact, and this will probably bring a flush of pleasure to all you Jeremy Clarkson's out there, the police have even issued fixed penalty notices on two occasions to bus drivers using Friary Lane in an incorrect fashion.

They have now warned bus companies to make sure their drivers are using the correct side of the road. As if you'd normally have to!

Quite why these drivers are using the wrong side of the road is not mentioned, so I'm now watching out for a bus driver backlash. I'll keep you posted.

Minister Criticised at Bristol Bus Improvements Launch

He was meant to be coming to Bristol to signal the completion of a £79m project to revolutionise bus transport in the city. Instead, he found himself walking straight into some difficult questions about spending cuts.

Transport Minister Norman Baker MP was in Bristol today to help launch a major project which has provided new bus priority lanes, 120 new buses and almost 1,000 new and improved bus stops, many with electronic information displays. The scheme is intended to reduce congestion and improve services for commuters and shoppers.

His department had stumped up almost half the cash with local councils providing the rest, and he might have thought that today's little photo opportunity would be a good chance to show off something positive which the coalition government was doing.

But almost from the start he was having to fend off criticism that his government's cuts were pushing up prices. To be fair, his timing wasn't brilliant.

Next month, the cost which bus companies pay for their fuel will increase dramatically, principally because the government is cutting the Bus Service Operators Grant. The practical effect of that, reckons Justin Davies, regional managing director of First Bus (South West and Wales), is that their fuel costs will rise by 27% effectively overnight.

“We have to be able to recover an element of that price rise in the prices we charge,” he said, acknowledging that fares will inevitably rise.

"We have all seen the price of petrol and diesel going up at the pumps, all we are doing is reflecting those price changes. It's an economic commodity fuel, we have to pay as much as everybody else."

Mr Baker defence sounded familiar. His government, he said, had inherited "a very difficult economic situation from the previous administration", something which government ministers seem to announce frequently and with great regularity. It may be true, but it's beginning to sound lame and a little desperate.

He also said that they'd given 18 months notice of the bus service operators' grant being reduced which he reckoned, rather bizarrely, was sufficient notice to enable bus operators to incorporate the grant cut 'without putting up fares or cutting services'.

Quite how a bus company is meant to absorb a 27% increase in fuel costs without either putting up fares or reducing services wasn't outlined by Mr Baker – but I reckon most bus companies would absolutely love to know the answer to that one.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bus Firm To Take Legal Action Against Passenger

A bus company has decided to take legal action against a teenage passenger after he was let off with a police caution after assaulting a ticket inspector.

Local press reported yesterday that Edward Cabot (67) was left with a severe black eye and a gash to his head after being punched by a 16-year old boy. His glasses were also smashed in the incident.

The assault happened while the former RAF Military Policeman, who is currently receiving treatment for leukaemia, was working on the Norfolk Green school service in Spalding earlier this month.

The incident started when a teacher travelling on the school service asked the teenager to stop swearing.The teenager carried on being abusive and the teacher told him to get off the bus. The boy then threw a punch which knocked Mr Cabot to the floor.

The boy has since been banned from travelling on all Norfolk Green buses.

The incident was reported to Lincolnshire Police who later decided to let the teenager off with a caution. However, this has so infuriated Norfolk Green that they say they are now planning a private prosecution against the teenager, and are also intending to contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Richard Pengelly, operations director for Norfolk Green, said: “We are disgusted by the police’s reaction to this.

“It seems like the boy has got off scot-free. There was 50 or 60 school children and a teacher who witnessed what happened.

“If a driver or inspector had shouted at a pupil, or assaulted someone, then they would rightly be suspended and action taken.”

“The other children on the bus were marvellous and have written cards to Mr Cabot asking him not to judge all the children like this one boy,” he added.

“When he is better we are hoping that Mr Cabot will be able to go on the school run again to see everyone who helped him.”

While normal Norfolk Green buses are fitted with CCTV cameras on board, the one used by Edward was not.

Lincolnshire Police declined to comment.

Firs Bus Manchester Hit With Massive Fine

After its mauling by traffic commissioner Beverley Bell last month, First Bus in Manchester has now been hit with a £285,000 fine because of its poor time-keeping.

I've previously blogged with the news that First Manchester was summoned to appear before the commissioner in February after an investigation by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) last year into the company's time-keeping.

It transpired that VOSA's inspectors had been monitoring more than 860 bus journeys in Eccles, Swinton, Worsley, Royton, Trafford and Stalybridge in January and February 2011, and they discovered that some 26 per cent of those buses turned up either late or early.

Bus operators are required to ensure that 95 per cent of their services are no more than one minute early or five minutes late. Under section 155 of the Transport Act 2000 a traffic commissioner is allowed to impose a fine of up to £550 per vehicle on firms that fail to hit that 95 per cent target.

Now, the region’s traffic commissioner has hit the firm with a fine of more than a quarter of a million pounds Beverley Bell after the company was a revealed to have one in five of its buses not running on time. Overall, the company's compliance rate across Greater Manchester was 82.5 per cent.

"The main reason I imposed the penalty was because the operator hadn't done enough to make sure these services ran on time," she said.

"This monitoring was over 12 months ago and yet, as at today's date, the operator was still trying to put measures in place and I didn't think that was enough done quickly enough."

The commissioner said that she could have fined First Bus up to £500,000 but had decided on £285,000 in view of the work it had already done to improve services.

She wanted First "to show over the next three to six months that it is operating properly - and if it isn't, it'll have to come back and see me again".

Clearly a lady not to be messed with....

Friday, 9 March 2012

Bristol Passengers Offered Underwhelming Promise

When is a ‘customer promise’ not really a customer promise?

Bus passengers in Bristol could soon be finding out that it is precisely the sort of customer promise which is now being offered by First Bus.

To help sweeten the pill of their latest fare increases, the company has made a promise to its customers that their bus journey will be free of charge if the bus is more than 20 minutes late. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Er, well no, not really. Look a little closer and you’ll find that the offer is not quite as generous as it first sounds.

To begin with, it is beholden on the customer to prove it was the company’s fault the bus was not on time. That might not be easy. And then First would only accept liability if their bus failed to arrive because its driver didn’t turn up for work, or the bus had suffered a mechanical breakdown.

In addition, it would not be liable for delays caused by Bristol ’s heavy traffic. Or by road works or road closures. Or bad weather. Or vandalism. Or security alerts. Or industrial action.

Oh, and it doesn’t apply to concessionary pass holders either.

Doesn’t sound quite so good now, eh?

First Bus reckon that their generous new promise “… reflects its increasing confidence in its ability to operate buses more punctually and reliably than ever before”. However, given their offer’s many and complicated limitations, ‘confidence’ is not a word that springs readily to mind. There may be good reason for this.

In January 2011, the Traffic Commissioner levied a fine of £40,000 on First Bus for running late buses. That followed a £50,000 in 2007 and a massive £100,000 in 2005. The company has an unfortunate history of running late buses, so its confidence might justifiably be fairly low.

And when you look a little closer, you’ll find that First Bus are actually legally required by the Traffic Commissioner to ensure that their buses are no more than five minutes late without reasonable excuse anyway – which is way, way above the level of punctuality promised in their ‘customer promise’.

Perhaps it is no surprise that First Bus’ customer promise is being introduced on Sunday, April 1 – April Fool’s Day. But who is the fool?

Well, it might just be First Bus, if their ‘customer promise’ proves to be as big a public relations car crash as it looks set to be. You only have to think about the number of angry passengers who make a claim only to discover that, for any one of a dozen reasons, their claim is not valid to work out that people might feel a little let down by the company’s promise. And that’s bad for business.

Any PR consultant worth their salt will tell you that consumers who receive great service will generally sing your praises to four other people – but will report bad service to at least ten. The imperative to get it right, and rescue it quickly if it goes wrong, should be overwhelming. Again, ‘overwhelming’ is not a word that readily springsto mind. Underwhelming, perhaps…

Local councils aren’t impressed, either. First Bus’ avowed confidence ‘…in its ability to operate buses more punctually and reliably’ has got at least something to do with the £78 million which local councils have invested of bus priority measures in recent years as part of its Greater Bristol Bus Network. That money was spent to get more people onto buses by making bus services more reliable and, in return, it was hoped First would drop its fares.

Yet later this month First Bus will be putting up fares for all day, single and return fares for adults and children.

I reckon First Bus might have a tough job ahead of them. And it’s not likely to get any easier.

Hitler Alive and Well and Living in... West Fife?

Bus drivers sometimes come in for a fair amount of stick – often unfairly. And there’s no denying that nobody likes a surly or belligerent driver.

It’s not often that inspectors come in for a load of stick, though. So I was a little surprised to come across a story about a bus inspector whose demeanour has led to him being referred to either as ‘that inspector from 'On the Buses' (Blakey, I think they mean) or Hitler.

Strong stuff.

This all comes from the case of a six year old from West Fife who apparently was left in floods of tears when the bus inspector – or Hitler, as parents now apparently call him – demanded the little girl’s bus pass.

The incident happened as the kids got on to the bus and, according to one angry mum: "This inspector said to them, 'Where's your pass? If you don't have your pass tomorrow, you'll have to pay. If you don't pay, you won't get on the bus.'

"It was the manner he said it,” she said “It was a totally unacceptable way for him to behave.

"I had just persuaded Amy to start using the school bus and now she's saying she doesn't want to go back on it.

"People like that shouldn't be anywhere near kids if that's how they're going to behave. We don't need Hitlers terrorising young children.

Parents then questioned whether it was a waste of resources putting an inspectors on a bus to check six year-olds bus passes.

Now the school is involved, as well as the local council and Stagecoach, with everybody no doubt trying to take the heat out of the situation and figure out exactly what went on. Whatever happen now, there won’t be any winners.

It’s probably a minor event in the great scheme of things, and its entirely likely that the inspector was not intending to be deliberately intimidating or offensive. Parents are want to be protective of their charges and rightly so, and some can occasionally misconstrue other people’s – especially people in uniforms – intentions. I’m a parent myself – mea culpa.

But this case also underlines how quickly – and possibly unfairly - a reputation can be damaged. Stagecoach will no doubt be ensuring that this particular inspector’s duties keep him busy elsewhere for a while.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Sculptor To Put Bus On Art Gallery Roof for Olympics

One of the most memorable moments in bus-related cimematic history looks set to be celebrated this year as part of Britain's Cultural Olympiad.

"Hang On A Minute Lads, I've Got A Great Idea" is an artwork by Turner Prize-nomininated sculptor Richard Wilson inspired by the 1969 Michael Caine caper movie 'The Italian Job'.

The art installation pays homage to the movie's cliff-hanger finale - where the gang's getaway coach is left balancing on the edge of an Alpine ravine – in a very real sense.

Wilson is to put a bus on the roof of the Grade One-listed De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - though instead of blue as in the film, this bus will be painted... (wait for it) in the British team colours of red, white and blue.

Is someone having a joke? Well, probably not - even though comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, who just happens to be Honorary Patron of DLWP, is the exhibit's principal sponsor.

“2012 is the year the Olympics & Paralympic Games return to the United Kingdom and I think this is a perfect time to hang a large bus off the edge of a building in a seaside town,” says Eddie.

“As a huge fan of the classic film “The Italian Job”, I am proud to be the Principal Sponsor of artist Richard Wilson’s 'Hang On A Minute Lads….'.

“By the end of 2012 I would hope that the word goes out from our country that not only do we run excellent world events, but also we balance coaches on the edges of buildings like no one else ever could”.

'Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got A Great Idea…' opens to the public on 7 July 2012 as part of the London 2012 Festival, a 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.

And you know you're going to want to see it...!

Friday, 2 March 2012

NE Funeral Firm Embraces 'Death by Routemaster'

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go – so you might as well go in style.

For people living in South East Northumberland – or, more exactly, dying in South East Northumberland – that could now mean making your last ever journey in this world aboard a preserved Routemaster bus.

North East-based Go As You Please Funerals – which has bases in Wallsend, Cramlington and Ashington – are offering what is perhaps the most unusual hearse currently in use in the UK today.

Unusual, yes, but oddly practical. As the company happily points out on its website, the Routemaster “…seats 55 people and is a fantastic way of keeping all the family and friends together and creates a more celebratory atmosphere.” This rather assumes the funeral you are organising might be cause for celebration, but you can sort of understand what they are getting at.

“The coffin can also travel on the bus,” adds the website, somewhat cautiously.

Now I know this might sound like rather an strange idea, but I happen to know that it has excellent precedents. George Shillibeer, the man credited with introducing the omnibus to England in 1829, apparently employed the self-same idea in Essex after he retired from the omnibus business a few years later to become an undertaker.

George’s revolutionary idea – basically, a van with lots of seats carrying passengers along a fixed route at certain times of the day for a fixed price - had become so popular that he was eventually driven out of business by his competitors. So he retired to Chigwell in Essex to become a funeral director, taking his horse-drawn omnibuses with him.

The story goes that he converted his erstwhile buses into hearses, creating at least one hybrid vehicle which was part hearse, part bus - a sort of passenger-carrying hearse – specifically to enable mourners to accompany their dear departed on their last journey to the churchyard.

Now, almost 200 years later, the idea seems to have returned, only this time in the form of a London Routemaster bus.

There’s no evidence that Shillibeer’s hybrid hearse ever really caught on, and its unlikely that Go As You Please will be leading a revolution of their own with their hearse-bus concept. But you can’t deny it has a certain bizarre appeal.

When London Transport first sat down to design the Routemaster, they had a clear purpose in mind but the design they eventually settled on has certainly evolved over the years – there were coach versions, extended body lengths, front-entrance versions and in later years open-toppers.

They probably never envisaged their bus ever being used as a hearse, though….

You can book the funeral bus at

They also offer a motorcycle sidecar hearse, wicker coffins and conventional coffins in a variety of decorative styles – including Newcastle United stripes!

Anger as East Anglians Confront Reality of Bus Cuts

There seems to be no end to the angst in East Anglia .

After blogging earlier in the year about First’s decision to withdraw entirely from Bury St Edmunds due to subsidy cuts, it now seems the cuts are having an impact on other operators, too.

The latest people to confront the reality of cuts to subsidised bus services are local councillors in Thetford. They have realised that subsidy cuts by Norfolk County Council would leave them without a subsidised bus link to the county capital, Norwich .

The main effect of this will be that people with concessionary bus passes will no longer be able to travel to Norwich free of charge on National Express services because the council has decided to cut its subsidy.

This means, says Thetford town councillors, that their town is now one of only three in Norfolk not to have a subsidised service running to Norwich. One councillor described the move as ‘absolutely disgusting’.

“ Norwich is our county city and the people who use bus passes are at a time in life where they need that service,” said Cllr John Harding.

“We are a part of Norfolk and they should start paying for bus services for those people,” he said.

Their local county councillor Mike Brindle says the Conservative-controlled council had to prioritise which services it funded, and there is, he says, a very small demand for the Thetford to Norwich service anyway.

But another local councillor suggested, rather pertinently, that if so few people were using the service, then surely it wouldn’t cost much to subsidise?

Norfolk County Council is having to find savings of half a million pounds on local bus services in the county. Despite the cuts in Thetford, they say they are still spending £200,000 on bus services in and around Thetford.

Olympic-sized Trouble Brewing on London Buses

Public sector union Unite’s attempts to drive bus operators to the negotiating table ahead of the London Olympic Games seems to have failed – so now they are getting a bit shirty.

Neatly following the recent dispute between Underground workers and their bosses over extra pay during the Olympics, the union is alleging that the capital’s bus operators are forcing a confrontation with their bus drivers.

Unite, which represents around 28,000 London bus workers, is seeking a £500 Olympic payment to reward workers for all the extra work they say will be required of them. But the deadline for negotiations has been missed, says Unite, leading union officials to claim that the bus operators are seeking a confrontation.

Transport for London has predicted an extra 800,000 passengers on the London bus network during the London Olympics and Unite believes that its members ought to have a share of all that extra income as it will mean a lot of extra work for them.

The union has pointed out that other transport workers in London have already been offered extra pay for working during the Olympics, and all they want is parity with workers at Network Rail, Virgin Trains and London Overground.

Their colleagues underground are also in the mood for a fight, too. The RMT has now declared its dispute with Transport for London over its claim for extra pay for Tube staff official, leaving the way clear for the union to ballot its members on strike action… which would almost certainly be during the Games.

The chaos that would ensure from a Tube strike during the Olympic Games is almost unimaginable – but add a bus strike into the mix and the government would probably have to mobilise the military (for all the good that would do).

Peter Kavanagh, Unite regional secretary for London, believes that the bus operators are doing their staff, passengers and the capital ‘a huge disservice’ by refusing to meet with Unite to discuss an Olympic payment.

“By burying their heads in the sand for the last three months, London ’s bus operators are forcing a confrontation with 28,000 bus workers,” he says

“Unite is preparing to hold a consultative ballot at the end of March. We are ready and willing to sit down for talks at any time but unfortunately, the dismissive attitude of the employers suggests they are more inclined towards confrontation.”

The union’s leader Len McCluskey came under considerable fire in the media earlier this week when he floated the possibility of agonisingly high-profile public sector strikes during the Olympic Games. Well, he would, wouldn't he?

Looks like it might be a long, hot difficult summer…

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Biggest Fall in Passengers for a Decade

As the north of the country continues to feel the effects of the UK's climate of austerity more noticeably than the south, there was further bad news today for people living in Scotland - and for the bus companies who rely on them for income.

The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency has announced that bus journeys in Scotland have slumped to their lowest level in more than a decade, with passenger numbers falling by 6 per cent in 2009-10 to 438 million.

Get beyond the most heavily-populated central belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh, however, and the effects are even more noticeable, with the number of people taking the bus falling by as much as a quarter last year. In fact, the only area to show any growth was around Edinburgh.

That means that the number of people making bus journeys north of the border is at its lowest since at least 1999, and follows a peak of 498 million journeys as recently as 2007.

This is the third consecutive fall in ridership and most people believe it to be principally due to increased unemployment and an austerity-driven reduction in the number of shopping and leisure trips. Most experts believe the situation will get worse quite soon once the effects of fare increases and service cuts caused by falls in government and local authority spending start to be felt.

Free bus travel by the over-60s and disabled people also fell for a third year, to 146 million journeys.

Respected transport spokesman Gavin Booth of Bus Users UK believes that the north of Scotland had endured the biggest fall in passengers because services were less frequent and more vulnerable to cuts in local authority funding. Meanwhile, the bus companies were struggling not only with falling subsidies and fewer passengers but with higher fuel prices and other operating costs, too.

On 13 January I blogged about the growing north-south divide that was troubling Aberdeen-based First Group. Scotland is where 60% of the company's non-London revenue comes from. They were blaming the weak economy and lower consumer spending in the north for falling revenues, but the company was being doubly hampered because poor market conditions were making the sale of major assets such as bus depot sites much more difficult, robbing them of income there, too.

Going forward, there seems depressingly little to feel optimistic about.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Boris's 'New Bus 4 London' Splits Opinion

The 'New Bus 4 London' – or the Borismaster as everyone seems intent on calling it - assumed centre stage in the media this week following its long-awaited introduction to London's streets.

So far, the jury seems split, and largely along political lines.

There was cautious praise for the new vehicle in Dave Hill's London blog in The Guardian on Monday, who mentioned its stylish though slightly cramped interior and its smooth ride. He also mentioned its struggling air conditioning, though this might have been less to do with the press of reporters and film crews thronging the huge double decker than the hordes of breathless bus enthusiasts mingling with them.

A piece on local BBC News carefully represented the views of both Transport for London, who as you would imagine are strongly pro, and everyone else, who it appear to be strongly against. The lines of argument are clear.

One is the sheer cost of the New Bus 4 London programme. One protester reckoned that 96 new low-carbon hybrid buses could have been acquired for the cost of just these eight new buses. And presumably they would not have been halted in Islington by a 'software hitch' as the bus the BBC was travelling on was. They had to lock down the open platform of the vehicle to get the thing running again.

By this time, of course, the new bus had been dogged every step of the way by an old-fashioned 1960's Routemaster hired by the protest group Sack Boris. They commanded a fair degree of media attention, too, especially as their bus seemed to be filled with people who were only too keen to let the media know just what a waste of money the whole New Bus 4 London was.

However, most had already been beaten to the punch. Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy had already written an open letter to the Mayor of London to complain that each new bus costs £1.4m compared to the roughly £190,000 cost of a conventional double-decker, leading him to an entertaining conclusion.

"With 62 seats at a cost of £1.4m, the cost per seat is £22,580, “ he said. “At £22,695, you can buy a brand new 3 series BMW!"

“Riding this bus is surely the most expensive bus ticket in history," he concluded.

Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones raised the issue of vehicle cost in a different way, though, questioning whether London bus operators would refuse to buy such an expensive vehicle especially as there was serious doubt whether there was an after-market for second hand Borismasters either here or abroad.

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Lib Dems on the London Assembly, put it all into perspective when she said: "What Boris Johnson has managed to achieve is to hike up the cost of a single bus fare by 50% and ensure that buses on routes across London are far more crowded.

"A single new bus which has cost Londoners' a fortune will not cover up Boris Johnson's real record on bus services."

TfL admitted that the new bus cost a lot to develop but that subsequent vehicles would be much cheaper particularly if they were ordered in any quantity - which is probably true. However, that assumes there will be a great many of them ordered by bus operators, and so far that is uncertain.

Whatever you think of the new bus – and there's no denying its glamourous good looks and, if it works and continues to work, its practicality for London – there's every chance that it won't be Boris Johnson's delivering on a promise to rid the city of bendy-buses and resurrect the Routemaster that will determine whether Boris - or his 'Borismaster' - survives beyond this May's Mayoral elections.

It will be his record on public transport generally.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

San Francisco Enlists Buses For Traffic Enforcement

Our colleagues in America appear to have hit on a new way of keeping cars out of bus lanes.

I'm told that San Francisco's Muni bus system has recently equipped 30 of its buses with forward-facing cameras so they can take photos of vehicles illegally travelling along or parking in the city's bus lanes.

John Haley, transit director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, reckons that the new cameras have transformed driver behaviour. “When cars see a bus coming, they get the hell out of the way now,” he says.

“Fifteen months from now, all of Muni's 819 buses will be equipped with the cameras. Drivers caught on tape violating the bus lanes will be subject to fines of up to $115. “

That's going to concentrate a few Californian minds.

Of course, forward-facing cameras are certainly not new on British inner-city buses, but I'm not sure anyone has thought of using them as a traffic enforcement tool. You could see how they could be useful in Central London, for example, though I doubt whether evidence derived from a camera mounted on the front of a bus would be admissible in a British Magistrate's court.

This might be a good thing, however. John Haley freely admits that with all these cameras at his disposal, he's starting to get a lot of experience with cameras.

“With all the footage, I'm starting to feel a bit like Cecil B. Demille," he gloats.

Ready for your close up, Mr Mayor?

Huge Demand For Four-Hour 'Day Trip From Hell'

The Daily Mail rightly called it the 'day trip from hell' – but it seems coach tourists just can't get enough of it.

Now, such has been the demand for tickets that bus and coach operator Brighton and Hove have had to put more dates on what is possibly the oddest day trip of them all.

Described on the Brighton and Hove website as a day trip “...designed for lovers of modern coach travel”, their M25 coach tours have proved so popular that they had to add two further dates. That's right, a coach tour around the M25.

The company freely admits that London's infamous orbital motorway has been named the least entertaining and most boring road in Britain, and the most hated place in Britain as voted by BBC Radio 4 listeners, who presumably know a truly hateful road when they see one.

But, says the company's website, “Let us try to prove these judgements wrong with a “flight of fancy” around the London Orbital”. Oh, let's not...

It's a big ask. Highlights of the tour will include visits to Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five, the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex and the Dartford River Crossing. And then there's the new services being built at Cobham in Surrey complete with a McDonald’s, a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and a Shell garage.

At £15-per-head, I'm amazed that Brighton and Hove are able to shift any tickets. Yet apparently they are having to beat customers off with sticks.

The obvious question, of course, is not 'will you be calling a South Mimms' but rather more simply – why?

I've been thinking about this and perhaps it's the all-pervading sense of mystery and suspense. For example, each trip is set to begin with the toss of a coin to determine exactly which way around the motorway the coach will travel, and hey, it doesn't come much more exciting than that.

In addition, although the trip is only meant to last four hours (only?), given the number of traffic jams and bottlenecks generally encountered en route, who knows how long it will take. See what I mean about suspense? I mean, is there a toilet on board?

And if that's not enough for you, then what about the nail-biting competition in which passengers are invited to 'guestimate' to the nearest mile the total distance the coach will travel around the M25, with a bottle of Champagne for the person guessing the closest. And, in the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn from a hat! Oh, still my beating heart!

There's even an entertaining commentary by the co-driver who will regularly regurgitate 'interesting facts' about the M25's evolution as you travel.

I've just checked today's date and no, it's not April 1, so I suppose all this must be true. Could this be the most ironic bus tour in history? Or was it just a bet which some transport manager got terribly, terribly wrong?

South Mimms, anyone?

Bus Lane Scrapped After 5,600 Motorists Fined

Fining motorists for illegally using bus lanes when they shouldn't clearly doesn't work, if the evidence of Stoke-on-Trent City Council is anything to go by.

Despite issuing a blizzard of £60 fines to errant motorists, the 20-metre bus lane in Huntbach Street in Hanley continues to be used as a shortcut to car parks on a regular basis.

Did I say blizzard? Let me be more precise – 5,600 tickets have so far been handed out to people, more than half of which have been issued since April 1.

What it lacks in stature – it's little more than 60 feet long - it clearly makes up for in sheer desirability. Using it gives prompt though illegal access to nearby car parks. Stay on the right side of the law, however, and you are rewarded with an epic 1.3-mile detour. You can see why some of the 5,600 motorists caught breaking the law were prepared to take the risk.

Now, it seems, everyone has become fed up with it all.

"We are currently consulting with the public on plans to amend bus routes in the city centre in preparation for the opening of the new bus station in the autumn,” explained Councillor Adrian Knapper, the city council's cabinet member for transport and planning.

"It is proposed that the amended bus routes will no longer be using Town Road, and as a consequence, will not be accessing Huntbach Street,” he told local reporters.

"With this in mind, it is proposed to remove the existing bus lane and open the street to all traffic.”

A blessed relief, then – and at least the town is getting a new bus station. But as ever it's not all good news for the motorist.

As part of the council's proposals, some roads will now be pedestrianised while others will become one-way, still more will remain one-way but have their direction reversed, and yet more roads will become two-way.

Now, some hapless motorist is bound to get that wrong.

Makes you wonder why they don't just all go by bus...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Bus Company Celebrates High Fuel Prices

And now, at long last, perhaps some good news for bus companies.

Amidst all the anger about service reductions, disquiet about subsidy cuts, deeply unpopular fare rises and the like, here's a sign that things might not be quite so bad after all.

Derbyshire-based operator Trent Barton reckons that the high cost of fuel is something to be pleased about after all because it's driving ever greater numbers of motorists out of their cars and onto public transport. Well, on to Trent Barton buses, anyway.

When the company carried out customer surveys recently they were delighted to discover that around three-quarters of those they questioned had said that travelling by bus is now cheaper than using a car. 

The company’s commercial director Alex Hornby believes the cost of motoring is troubling people more and more. On some routes, he said, 78 per cent of customers had said they had saved money by taking the bus rather than going by car.

Across their entire network, he added, some 70 per cent of those surveyed said that bus fares offered good value for money.

Good for Trent Barton, I say. On the evidence of this, I'd say they were definitely a 'Glass Half Full' company. The trick, of course, will be to hang onto those extra passengers once everyone has grown accustomed to paying £1.50 for a cup of diesel

Still, it's good to hear to someone being positive for a change.

Calls To Axe Free OAP Bus Travel

The variously centre-right and centre-left policy think tank The Social Market Foundation has said that pensioners should be stripped of their rights to free bus travel as part of a plan to save £15 billion and boost the economy.

The estimated £1 billion annual cost of concessionary travel passes for OAPs was a low-priority item of spending, they said, and it did nothing to improve the economy. It should be scrapped, they concluded.

The foundation – which was known to be John Major's favourite think tank - also suggested taking away winter fuel payments and free television licences from better-off pensioners.

This and other mildly inflammatory ideas – such as barring savers from keeping more than £15,000 of savings in ISAs, means-testing child benefits and halving tax relief for pensioners – would deliver, they said, the extra £15bn of savings the government have only just now realised they will have to find in 2016.

"Our plan would unambiguously strengthen the Government's deficit cutting credibility and increase economic output without borrowing a penny more,” they said. “That would go a long way towards reassuring the holders of UK Government debt.”

How lovely. I doubt whether the holders of UK personal debt would be terribly reassured, though, or their retired parents.

And am I the only person to spot that the Social Market Foundation's plans seem to be very much based on penalising elderly voters?

Honestly. Anyone would think that they were deliberately courting publicity...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Boris' New Bus for London Delayed

Looks like we'll all have to wait a bit longer for the much-vaunted 'Borismaster' to hit the streets of London – it's introduction, I discover, has been delayed.

After announcing with much excitement two months ago that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s “Routemasters for the 21st Century” would enter service on Monday 20 February, Transport for London has announced that is has had to delay their introduction by a week.

Apparently, certification of the new vehicles has taken a bit longer than expected.

The first Borismasters, as they are widely referred to, are now due to enter service on 27 February at the hands of Arriva London on their route 38.

Dismissed as an irrelevant vanity project by the Mayor's political opponents, it is understood that the cost of the project so far - design and development, and the building of eight prototype vehicles by Wrightbus of Northern Ireland – stands at more than £11.3m even before a wheel has turned.

What distinguishes the Borismaster from other hybrid buses is that it has no less than three doors, which is a first for a British double-deck bus. It sounds complicated but its intended to allow people to board and dismount relatively quickly. However, the downside – and in cost terms, it's a serious one - is that the bus will generally need a two-person crew.

Of course, we don't yet know whether the Borismaster concept will actually work, but the first few months of trials should quickly establish that. Even if it does work, there's been no indication yet of the likely on-the-road cost of these elegant though slightly bizarre vehicles. My bet is that they will prove so expensive and uniquely-engineered that no other operator will touch them.

If that is the case, then this will be history repeating itself. The original Routemaster, remember, was only ever bought by London Transport (who also designed it) except for a small number of forward entrance vehicles sold to Northern General Transport. In later years, cast-off's found work throughout the country but the forecourt and running costs of the originals were just too high, I'm told, and they were never widely adopted.

And then, of course, there's the cost of that extra crew member to factor in...

I doubt whether we'll see huge numbers of Borismasters on Britain's streets in the years to come.

Foreign Ownership On The Increase

Almost a quarter of the UK's bus industry is now in foreign ownership, according to data compiled by passenger transport specialists The TAS Partnership.

The company analysed the accounts of over 120 British bus companies as part of their Bus Industry Monitor project and concluded that 24.4 per cent of British bus operators now had overseas owners – up on previous studies.

The increased overseas stake in Britain’s bus industry follows the German state railway company Deutsche Bahn's purchase of Arriva in 2010.

The TAS Partnership's figures also showed that almost 70 per cent of the British bus industry, when measured by turnover, is controlled by just five major groups - FirstGroup, Stagecoach, Arriva, Go-Ahead and National Express.

That figure has risen from 64 per cent since they last carried out an analysis, the rise is being put down to Stagecoach’s decision to re-enter the London market with their purchase of the East London Bus Group in 2010.

Perth-based Stagecoach now has a 19.2 per cent share of the British bus market, which is a fraction behind Aberdeen-based FirstGroup. Although the biggest in Britain, cuts in First's network of services – I've blogged about this recently - and falls in fare revenue mean that their 19.6 per cent market share is actually the lowest its been since 1996.

The increased overseas stake in Britain’s bus industry follows the German state railway company Deutsche Bahn's purchase of Arriva in 2010.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Buses May Be Pulled After Latest Vandal Attack

Parts of Bolton could be without a bus service after a local company threatened to pull its vehicles off the road after a violent attack.

A pair of youths threw bricks through the windows of a passing Maytree Travel bus and when the driver stopped to check his passengers were unhurt they attacked again, pinning a 71-year-old passenger to the side of the bus and raining blows onto him.

This is already the tenth attack by vandals on Maytree’s buses in 2012 — one more than they had in the whole of 2011. Police are investigating the attack and are urging anyone with information to get in touch.

Maytree’s managing director Gary Hawthorne said he was stunned by the latest incident and threatened to take all his Bolton drivers off the road if there is a repeat.

Mr Hawthorne said: “This is an horrific attack and I am staggered that they have done this to such an elderly man.

“Vandals are attacking our buses day in day out and things are worse now than they have ever been. We even had to divert one of our bus routes in Deane throughout January while the police dealt with the issue and who knows where it will end?

“If this keeps happening, we will have no option but

to take our buses off the road, to keep our drivers and passengers safe.”

Maytree was founded as a family-run firm in 2009 and has 25 buses serving 30 routes across Bolton .

Police are currently looking for the two youths aged between 18 and 22 years.

Train Operators To Lose Grant For Replacement Buses

The Government is planning to end an anomaly which allows train companies who also own bus companies to receive grants for providing replacement bus services when stretches of the rail network are closed.

A practice known as “bustitution” allows train operators to pocket millions of pounds from days of disruption while their passengers endure longer journeys. Not only do train firms receive compensation from Network Rail when their lines are unavailable, but they can also claim Bus Service Operators Grant when they one of their associated companies lays on a relief service.

Rail minister Norman Baker is expected to announce plans to end the practice of “double dipping” - whereby train operators receive Bus Service Operators Grant when they one of their associated companies lays on a relief service – later this week.

“I have been pushing train operating companies to reduce their reliance on decanting all their passengers onto buses at the weekend – I hope this will act as an extra push to make them think again," says the minister.

“Network Rail is happy to get possession of the track so they can do work and train operators are happy to receive the grant, the only person who loses out is the passenger.”

“I am not convinced that train companies are doing as much as they can to avoid replacement buses,” he added. He might have a point.

According to official figures quoted in the national media, First Group’s specialist rail replacement bus company received £2.5 million for running replacement buses in three years.

Other DfT figures showed that Stagecoach’s specialist rail replacement bus firm received more than £74,000 in the six months ending September 2009, whilst National Express received £280,000 in 2010 for providing buses and coaches for rail replacement duties.

However, some reckon the real figure is likely to be much higher once the grant paid to dozens of local offshoots of the big bus-train conglomerates is taken into account.

Anger As Council Spends £5,000 On Redundant Bus Stop

There's yet more trouble in County Durham, it seems, after it emerged today that the local council had demolished a bus shelter and erected a brand new one - only to discover that it wasn’t actually on a bus route.

A mix-up in communications was blamed for the £5,180 spent by Durham County Council on a shelter in Framwellgate Moor, Durham where, according to local residents, there hasn’t been a bus service for years.

The council, which is facing cuts in government funding of nearly £190m, said it had checked with bus company Arriva before the work started only to discover when it was finished that all bus services had been withdrawn.

Local residents are not impressed.

“How kind of Durham County Council to replace the old brick bus stop... with a nice bright glass one complete with rubbish bin and timetable board,” quipped one local resident. “The only problem is the bus stop has not been used for more than two years.”

The old bus shelter cost £1,800 to demolish with a further £2,800 spent building its replacement. Apparently, it will cost £580 to move the shelter to another location. But however angry local residents might be, Durham County Council clearly isn’t best pleased, neither.

“The work on the shelter was carried out after consultations with Arriva who, on two separate occasions, confirmed that their bus services would be using the stop,” says Durham County Council’s head of transport Adrian White, quite possibly through gritted teeth.

“Unfortunately, they have subsequently informed the council that they are now not planning to operate services on this route. We will be looking to relocate the shelter in the near future.”

Arriva suggested the mistake had been a misunderstanding.

You’ll have seen from previous blogs of mine that very few Durham folk seem to have a place in their hearts for Arriva. The company really does seem to attract widespread public criticism wherever it operates in the county. Looked at objectively, I’d say there is a serious public relations job for someone at Arriva North East HQ.

Mind you, its not that most passengers really have any choice but to use Arriva services. If they had, then perhaps might not everybody raise their game?

And isn’t that what bus deregulation was meant to do?

Free Wi-Fi for Dublin City Buses

Irish transport operators seem to be stealing something of a march on their British counterparts if news coming out of Dublin is anything to go by.

Dublin Bus has announced that it is about to help make its home city one of only cities in Europe to offer all its bus passengers free Wi-Fi whilst on the move.

The company says it is intending to install Wi-Fi technology to its fleet of 900 buses before the end of the year, allowing thousands of its passengers to surf the internet, tweet and send emails while on the move.

Dublin Bus will begin a two-month trial of the technology from next week on one of its city routes and if the trials are successful then it is planned to extend the service across the entire fleet.

Other public transport operators, including rail operator Iarnrod Eireann and Bus Eireann, have already started rolling out Wi-Fi technology. Many Irish coach firms already boast free Wi-Fi and the National Transport Authority says it hopes to install Wi-Fi on Luas trams later this year.

Iarnrod Eireann has free Wi-Fi on most trains between Dublin and Cork and they are rolling out the service onto 234 inter-city rail carriages as well as the DART and commuter fleet in Dublin this year. More than 40 buses in the Bus Eireann fleet also have free Wi-Fi.

The project is believed to be dependent on funding being made available.

The company said that Madrid is the only other city in Europe which currently provides a free Wi-Fi service to passengers on city buses.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Council Paints Bus Stop Around Cars Parked on Street

While plenty of people are bemoaning the loss of their treasured bus services, others it seems don’t want them – or at least, they don’t want bus stops.

Residents living on a busy road through a housing estate in Merstham, Surrey are furious after Surrey County Council arrived out of the blue one day and promptly began painting a bus stop on the road around their parked cars.

The bus stop, say the residents, is unwanted, it isn’t needed, and they weren’t consulted over the painting of it. And they are angry.

In fairness, the bus stop has always been there even if it is, according to residents, lightly used. It’s the marked bus stop bay on the road that they strongly object to.

"The first I knew was when the guys turned up in the lorry,” said one resident. “"They literally painted around my van and a car parked outside.

“I'm just confused. I've been here for 24 years and there has never been a need for this – one person per bus alights here, if that.

"There's another bus stop just up the road. And there's a far better site on the green which no households use for parking. I contacted the council but all they told me was 'it wasn't my road'."

Residents are now organising to thwart the council by taking it in turns to ensure that at least one vehicle is permanently parked in the bay. Not that it matters that much, as the bus stop bay is, according to the council, advisory only so legally there’s nothing to stop anyone from parking there anyway.

Still, you threaten someone’s parking space at your peril…

For it’s part, Surrey County Council explained that the council was under a duty to improve public transport and the markings were introduced after one local resident and the bus company told them that passengers were having trouble getting on and off the bus because of cars parked at the bus stop.

"There is no point in bus companies investing in the more accessible low-floor buses if they cannot get to the kerb,” they observed.

" Unfortunately the contractor did not notify us in advance as to when they would do the work, so we were unable to cone off the area or advise people to park elsewhere."

Perhaps this is one of those rare examples when (with apologies to Elvis Presley) what was really required was a little more consultation, a little less action…

There is an added irony here. I checked this out on Google Maps and, if I’ve got this right (and I think I have) then the newly-marked bus stop bay is slap-bang next to another marked bay on the road, only this one reserves a parking space for a disabled neighbour. Which might explain other people’s sensitivity over parking space for their cars. Is this a bay too far? Or is it a case of a marked bay is OK providing its for my car?

Mums Protest As Four Year Olds Forced to Travel Alone

I keep stumbling across new and obscure ways in which the government's austerity measures – at least, those in relation to local government funding – are having unforeseen and definitely unpleasant effects on the public.

I've already blogged about how the elderly and the young appear to be suffering the most from the various budget cuts, service cuts and reductions in service being implemented across the country. Now, however, its seems that the relatively affluent mums of leafy rural Warwickshire are suffering too. And they don't like it.

(Honestly, you wait for ages for a story about Warwickshire, then two come along together...)

A group of mums from a group of villages near Banbury claim that they will soon be forced to drive their children to school if Warwickshire Council Council presses ahead with their plans to end their bus escort service.

If the Conservative-run council gets its way, then from next week children as young as four will have to travel unsupervised on a 45-minute bus journey to school.

Drivers from a newly-contracted bus company will be required to look after up to 40 children from villages around Shotteswell unaided on the daily journey to school in Fenny Compton. The mums are not best pleased.

“I cannot put my four-year-old on the bus at 8.20am to get to school at 9am without an adult assistant,” says one. “I want to know the driver is concentrating on the roads rather than a child who is ill, upset or quarrelling.

“I will have to drive him, which is bad for the environment, for Fenny Compton in terms of traffic and for Jack’s independence.”

Local parish councillor Val Ingram asked: “Who will make sure the children do up their seat belts, or remember to take their lunches and bags with them?”

The council's decision to end bus escorts, which is expected to realise savings of about £700,000 a year by 2017, is part of a plan to save money – a plan that will also see bus passes going up in price. Four of Warwickshire's primary schools lost their bus escorts in September last year and seven more, including this one, are due to end this month.

So, none of us are immune from the government's cuts after all and we really are, as the Prime Minister once claimed, 'in it together'. Well, no. I'm a parent myself and can understand and sympathise with this group of worried and angry mums. But if you'd forgive me for sounding just a tad uncharitable, at least these mums have cars, whereas people in much less wealthy areas – as well as the elderly and the young – often don't.

What is interesting, though, is that this area is very much the epitome of the Tory shires, and I'm prepared to bet that those who did vote Tory at the last general election didn't think they were voting for cuts that would effect them quite so forcibly.

The Conservatives currently hold a sizeable majority on Warwickshire County Council – but I suspect there could be a number of councillors sleeping a lot less easy in their beds ahead of the next local elections on 4 May.

Restoration Refused for 'Historic' Wooden Bus Stop

When is a bus shelter not a bus shelter? Well, when it's a piece of local history, that's when.

At least, that what one former resident of the leafy village of Kingsbury, Warwickshire thinks. She's been kicking up a fuss about the removal of what she describes as an 'historic wooden bus shelter' in the village.

The shelter, which indeed is made of wood, was built during the 1950's and is now the only wooden shelter in the village, the others having been progressively replaced over the years with shiny new metal and perspex ones.

Now, rot and vandalism has finally caught up with the last remaining wooden shelter and it too is set to be replaced. All of which has come as a bit of a shock to former resident Lisa Hartle, who grew up in the village and says she is "disgusted" at the council's decision to demolish the shelter when she'd offered to help raise money to restore it.

"It's not just a bus shelter, it's a part of the village's history," she says. “It is a bit of history and culture that is being lost."

Yet despite emails to Kingsbury Parish Council begging them to give her time to "raise the necessary amount to have the parts replaced or a replica made", the council voted for demolition and replacement with a new shelter exactly matching the one on the opposite side of the road, with a transparent plastic rear panel.

Lisa is clearly upset. "It is such a lovely bus shelter, and so fitting for a village as opposed to the green metal type at the other end of the village," she says.

"I do not even live there and I was prepared to raise money to save the shelter.”

The council were not unsympathetic and even offered to make a grant of £100 to help with repairs. But it was in an advanced state of decomposition.

“The four main posts were absolutely rotted," claimed one councillor.

"When we went to see the shelter, one of the problems raised was that children misbehave in it. A plastic window would deter that.

"It is a much-loved shelter, but I really think it has come to the end of its days.

"It's very sad."

Sad, yes. But whether their bus shelters are modern or historic, at least they still have buses stopping at them. I suspect that's more than some people living in rural areas could say.