Monday, 23 January 2012

Yet More Dissatisfied Customers

Two more stories about service cuts and the anger they cause came my way last week.

The first involves the good people of Skegness, where the people running the town's Ex-Servicemen’s Club fear they may have to lay-off staff because of lack of trade caused, they say, by cuts in local bus services.

Stagecoach introduced a winter timetable in October which reduced the frequency of a number of services, with the result that club members are no longer able to get into Skegness at night, says the club.

Stagecoach say they can't run more services than they currently do because Lincolnshire County Council has cut the subsidies which would have been used to support those very winter bus services. The result is that no buses now run between Skegness and Mablethorpe on a Sunday, and the last bus between Skegness and Chapel St Leonards leaves at 7.15pm every weekday evening.

There's been no job losses yet, but...

Meanwhile, in Swindon passengers are equally incensed by the cuts which Thamesdown Transport has made to their local services – especially as they have now discovered that they have been massively over-charged by them in the first place.

A request for information under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that Thamesdown trousered £78,955 in overpayments during 2011 alone as a result of its exact fare policy, which means that bus drivers cannot give change.

Not surprisingly, passengers feel just a little bit cheated by this and believe that some of this windfall should be spent on re-instating the discontinued services. Local councillors and the town's MP agree.

Thamesdown introduced its exact fare policy in 2005 and and has enjoyed a certain amount of over-payment ever since, though never on this scale. The extra money, it says, helps them to meet their operating costs - though apparently not enough to insure them against having to trim their services from time to time.

The reason for their recent service changes? Simple. They were 'not commercially viable'.

You don't have to be a transport genius to spot that there's something fundamentally wrong with the way we are doing things. However, finding an answer that will a) provide passengers with a reliable and usable service whilst b) delivering reasonable profits to the operator without c) bringing the Treasury to its knees seems at present beyond us.

Meanwhile, passengers will complain and stay away, and operators will shrug their shoulders and complain about lack of passengers. And the government will complain about how much it all costs. Madness.

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