Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Better Buses for Aberdeen

Scottish Greens MSP and co-convener, Patrick Harvie, has embarked upon a campaign to give bus users a voice (car users have the AA amongst many others, of course). The campaign is called Better Buses, but unfortunately, it's restricted to Glasgow (Patrick is a Glasgow MSP after all).

Glasgow's problems with buses are numerous. Having previously lived on Renfield Street for three and a half years, I used to witness that street completely blocked by buses snaking in and out of lanes, getting in each others way, and looking out the window at 6pm, you would regularly see over 20 buses up and down the street. At times, it looked like a car park for buses. They are also expensive, and the information at the bus stops is extremely poor - I would often have to call the travel helpline in order to find out which bus took me where I wanted to go.

However, at least Glaswegians have other options. They have the subway for those remaining in the city centre or going just over the Clyde (although it's quite remarkable how slow it is - you can technically cycle quicker), and for those going to suburbs, there's a pretty excellent rail service ( or at least, it's far better than ScotRail's national service...) In Aberdeen, we're not so fortunate. First Bus have a virtual monopoly, not just on the bus routes, but in public transport provision in general. Yes, there are Stagecoach buses, but they're only useful if you're going outside Aberdeen - you can't get a Stagecoach in Ferryhill or Garthdee, for example, and there is no alternative on the main 1/2 route. As a result, they can run shoddy services and charge extortionate fares, and nobody can do a thing about it. There's no subway, there's no local rail, there's no over-priced tram line... Nothing.

Where do I get off calling their service shoddy, though? What's my proof? Well, I spent the past six months taking the bus to and from work, and before that would take it back from work and occasionally to work. This has included:

  • being treated worse than sheep in a mobile sheep pen, due to some bright spark deciding to put a single decker bus on the busiest route in Aberdeen during rush hour (this happened regularly, not just once or twice, and when I complained I was given some excuse about it being beyond their control)
  • watching buses pass by, even though they weren't due for another few minutes yet
  • as a result of the former, being left waiting for far longer than I should have to, as a result of the next bus having to pick up all the passengers the previous one missed
  • buses being cancelled/completely re-routed and absolutely no notice being given (this happened twice in one week, if I remember correctly, due to car accidents on the already-far-too-narrow-for-a-main-road Broomhill Road) - I have no idea what people who lived in Garthdee and Auchinyell were meant to do about a bus on those occasions; and even if you're at a bus stop with an electronic display, these buses go from "DELAYED" to just disappearing, apparently off the face of the planet.
All this for what is probably the most expensive bus service outside London (probably even more expensive...)

Enough is enough. Aberdeen needs proper public transport, a service worthy of the name. So where is Aberdeen's answer to Patrick Harvie to spearhead such a campaign to take on First Bus and compel them to up their game? Obviously nae me, because I'm just an ideas man (i.e. a moaner), and this calls for someone who doesn't mind talking to people. Besides, the council elections are coming up, so there are plenty of people going about desperate to get people to like them looking for vote-winning ideas.

So, how's about it? Eh? Eh? EH?!?!?!?


1 comment:

  1. So although your tone verges on the little ranty (said jokingly of course!) I actually think an initiative like @betterbuses could well be successfully reproduced for Aberdeen, as long as enough people were able to use the service to highlight problems with the buses. There would of course be issues with trying to raise enough awareness of the service (i.e. use of local media) as well as issues that it will exclude those who do not have mobile internet access i.e. twitter via smartphone (including myself!). And yes you are right about it being quicker & cheaper to cycle, which is why I practically cycle everywhere. Let me know via twitter if your interested in moving this idea forward.