Public transport farce

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussion' started by clueless1, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. clueless1

    clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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    The government keeps banging on at us all to use public transport. Today, I've just had cause to ask a question of our local bus company, thusly:

    This, and the fact that the buses are regularly late or simply don't turn up at all. And they are not cheap. A couple of weekends ago a friend and her young daughter missed their bus back to Middlesbrough. Our friend decided she'd just order a taxi (I'd have drove but I'd had a drink so couldn't). I was mortified, I said it would cost a fortune. She replied, just a tenner. I suggested that this was way more than the bus fare, to which she replied that 1 adult and 1 child fare to middlesbrough totals nearly £7.50, would take 3 times as long, and then they'd still have to walk quite far at the other end.

    So, if its almost as cheap to get a taxi as it is to take your kid on the bus, and in any case half the time the bus driver chooses not to let them on anyway, if the bus even turns up, how would you sell that idea?
     
  2. Phil A

    Phil A Gardener

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    Recon you ought to copy this thread to the bus companies shareholders when its run its course. That might be an eye opener.
     
  3. Phil A

    Phil A Gardener

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    This week's winner of the GC Word of the Week competition:dbgrtmb:
     
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    • Fat Controller

      Fat Controller Cuddly 'NEW SHED' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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      This has to be driver error, and I would hope that one of the garage managers would have the driver in the office for some verbal intercourse (I know I would if I was in receipt of your complaint);

      Yes, there is only room for one, unfolded buggy (sometimes you can get away with two of the stroller type if they are small) - but as the other one on board was already folded and your wife was willing to fold hers, I cannot see the issue.

      Did the driver know that one of the buggies was already folded (there is surprisingly little view of the saloon from a drivers cab), and did your wife make him/her aware that she was wiling to fold her buggy?

      As for the fares, that is something that we don't really suffer from around here as we are on the fringes of TfL services; different councils/areas subsidise travel differently, and it sounds like there is next to none (if any) in your area. Sadly, buses are costly beasts to run and the ever rising cost of diesel is one of the biggest factors, hence some of the silly fares.

      Bear in mind that a taxi will most likely be a diesel Mondeo or similar, that will return approx 40-45 mpg even around town - 6 mpg is fairly typical from a modern bus, maybe 7.5 mpg if its a particularly efficient or small one.
       
    • Phil A

      Phil A Gardener

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      Cost me £45 to get a taxi back from town last month. Just 14 miles.
       
    • clueless1

      clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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      True, but lets say a bus uses 10 times the fuel of the taxi. Lets also say that the taxi averages 1.5 passengers per trip. That means the bus only needs to average 15 passengers per trip to match the taxi on fuel economy per passenger. The bus has about 40 seats and is usually close to full. A taxi will often spend half its time on the road without passengers (as it returns to base after a drop off), so buses are much more fuel efficient per passenger than taxis.

      Using the same estimated figures, a taxi needs one driver per 1.5 passengers, or 10 drivers per 15 passengers. A bus needs 1 driver per 15 passengers, so driver costs are lower too.

      So with lower fuel costs, lower driver's wage bill, slower less flexible service than taxis, its hard to understand how the cost to the passenger can be so similar.
       
    • Fat Controller

      Fat Controller Cuddly 'NEW SHED' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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      We had a similar quote last weekend for a relative who was visiting us for a few drinks - 8 miles tops for her journey home, £32.

      Even the cheaper one she got in the end was £18
       
    • Phil A

      Phil A Gardener

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      I had to take the first one I could get, wasn't sure if the police were looking for me or not, had to get out of town;)
       
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      • Fat Controller

        Fat Controller Cuddly 'NEW SHED' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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        If only it were that simple.

        I have a fleet of 130 buses, 80 doubles, 50 singles. Each double costs approximately £200k to purchase, each single is approx £150k - if you start to fart about with Hybrid technology, then those prices get absolutely stupid. Makes that £15k for a nearly new Mondeo look pretty cheap?

        Drivers hours are rigorously controlled (rightly enshrined in law), and as a rough guide cannot drive more than 4.5 hours in a single spell, and cannot drive more than 10 hours in a day; they must also have a minimum rest period (48hrs) at least once every 14 days; and further to this, they must have at least 10 hours between shifts (can be reduced to 8.5 hrs twice in a week) Mr Taxi driver can drive as much as he likes, whenever he likes.

        Buses generally require 'servicing' on a more regular basis than you would a car/taxi - ours are done every 25-28 days, and to do so you need to employ heavy vehicle fitters (even 'easy' jobs on a car are a lot more difficult on a bus due to the weights involved); then there is the cost of spares - a DPF (exhaust filter trap) as fitted to a modern Euro 5 compliant vehicle costs approx £1800; you are looking at a couple of those a year. Every other part is similarly expensive - if an engine breathes its last, you are looking at £10-£12k for a new one.

        And then there is the cost of vandalism - bricks through windows, seats slashed/burnt, windows etched, graffiti - it all costs to put right, and has to be done to keep the vehicle serviceable.

        Then there is tyres and insurance - sure, insurance on a taxi will be a couple of grand a year, but the insurance bill for bus companies is often so high they are all-but self insured (there is often an insurance company that holds a large 'bond' that sits in the millions of pounds depending on the size of the company, and that bond has to be paid up front.

        Believe me, running a bus service is not just as easy or as cheap as you might think.
         
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        • clueless1

          clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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          Maybe round here its the taxis that are subsidised rather than the buses.

          Redcar to Newcastle by taxi, a distance of about 60 miles = £60.
          Redcar to Newcastle on the train = £13
          Redcar to Newcastle on the bus = approx 11 (based on National Express from boro, normal bus to boro from here).

          My house to town centre in a taxi = £3.40
          My house to town centre on a bus = £1.70

          Taxi and train are relatively quick and comfortable journeys, yet they are not much more expensive than the slow, dirty and unreliable buses.
           
        • clueless1

          clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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          I'm glad I started this thread now, because I think I've opened a can o worms and in doing so, lots of interesting stuff is that I'd never thought of is coming to light:)

          So, whether or not public transport, specifically buses, is a farce or not (and I'm not knocking anyone involved in these services (except possibly the driver that my missus encountered today)). I'd previously held an over-simplistic view, so lets have a ponder.

          The gov wants us all to leave the car at home and get the bus. Why do they want us to do that?

          Environment
          We're told that buses are more eco friendly, and taking fuel consumption alone as a factor, it seems this is true. But if a bus needs more servicing than a taxi, and certainly more so than most people's cars, and then if buses get through more tyre rubber, then maybe this advantage starts to diminish.

          Congestion
          We know our roads are getting congested. There must be some logic in squashing more people into fewer vehicles, anyone can see that. But the buses rarely go exactly where people need them to, at a time when they need to. They have to try to suit the majority of customers. That probably works well in cities, but the instant you step outside the city limits, its a different story.

          Safety
          The statistics speak for themselves. The fact is you're statistically more likely to be involved in accident in your car than on a bus or train, but if you do crash your car, you've got all manner of safety gear designed to keep you alive. Unfortunately there are no seat belts or airbags on a bus (for the passengers) and indeed half the time you don't even get a seat.

          Accessibility for all
          It seems if you're wheelchair bound or have a kid in a push chair (and I'm not talking about this one incident today), its hit and miss if you can get the bus. At least half the buses round here have steps anyway, so no access for wheelchair users, and quite often buses are full to capacity with standing room only, making it useless to the frail. The fact that buses (or any public transport) can't get everywhere also means its often useless to anyone who isn't fit enough to walk half a mile or so to the nearest bus stop.

          Economy
          Round here at least, lack of driving license is a major obstacle to employment. The reason is that prospective employers want to know how you will get to work on time, and they don't trust public transport. Buses are a business, and as such they contribute to the economy by way of passengers paying fares. Profits mean taxes, and profits also mean employment. But if the passengers can't get to work on time, and can't rely on buses to get there, then they can't be expected to pay their money to the bus companies, so the bus company can't contribute as much to the economy. If the local government has to subsidise the bus company to make it viable, and yet the service is such that people still feel the need to take their cars, then it doesn't seem very economical to me.

          I know, some people can't drive for many reasons. Some old folk depend on their bus service to get about, and for these folk the local bus to town is a lifeline. Maybe that's what the bus service should be. Instead of trying to be something that cant work, maybe it should focus on the niche market of people in outlying areas that can't or don't want to drive, but don't have to be anywhere by bang on 8:30AM.

          Did you know, its 3 miles from my house to my work. I have a choice of two main roads to get there, both are within a half a mile of my house. Both these main roads link Redcar to Middlesbrough, along with several other significant towns, so you'd think it would be a no brainer for me to get the bus to work. If I did, it would be 2 buses and nearly an hour total travel time. That can't be right?
           
        • Fat Controller

          Fat Controller Cuddly 'NEW SHED' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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          The real root cause of the problems are exactly the same that plague many parts of our lives nowadays - privatisation and far too much red tape.

          I'll start with the privatisation.

          Everything has a cost attached to it, yet the minute you factor in a profit for a company and its shareholders, then the cost to the customer spirals. With some things (think iPods, computers, TV's and cars) this isn't an issue as you can either afford to buy what you want or you can't, and people are generally happy to pay the price you are asking.

          However, public services are there (generally speaking) because they were brought about when there was a need for them - such a wide ranging need that it was deemed necessary as a society to have them.

          These services started with things like clean water supplies and proper sewerage, and taxation was used to fund them, and this principle continued right through to gas, electricity, trains, buses and even the telephone - only, these latter examples had an additional 'point of use' charge to help cover the costs of supplying them. However, they were deemed as being 'inefficient' (because they cost the government money to run, and in many cases were very poorly managed), so they were farmed out to contractors. So, in addition to the cost of the service, we then had to start paying for the contractors profit as well - whereas our roads were once repaired by men employed directly by the council, now the council pays a company to employ those men and make a profit too;

          In my view, there are many things that should never have been sold off or privatised - and most of those I have listed above - but, there are many who would argue that I am wrong and that privatisation has been a complete success (usually the same people that are making a bob or three from their dividend payouts).

          Add onto all of that the fact that it has become increasingly difficult for any business to do anything nowadays - H&S legislation can tie you in knots (my company has had to employ people specifically trained in all matters H&S); recycling and environmental procedures seem to get more complicated and more costly on a regular basis (our bus wash recycles water as a simple example, which has to be maintained regularly to prevent legionella), and employment law isn't much better - DDA, European Working Time Directive etc (and that is before you get to the more industry specific rules governing those who drive heavy vehicles)

          With regard to the routing of services, I agree that it is a royal pain in the rear at times - my better half has a two bus journey to work every single day, and in fairness that is probably less arduous than it would be for you as London services do tend to be a bit more thought out than the rest of the country.

          But, in fairness to your local bus company, the decision for their routing may not be wholly of their making - they are unlikely to run a bus simply along a main road and give a fast journey into town because that would mean that they would see less passengers (it would be convenient for you if you live on or near the main road, but if you were a mile or so into a housing estate, would it still be a good idea?); the other consideration is where they are allowed to run a bus - in this country, you cannot simply pitch up and run a bus anywhere you feel like. You must submit detailed plans of your routing, frequency etc to your local Traffic Commissioner (usually positioned in the local police force).

          The Traffic Commissioner (once satisfied that you are fit, proper and financially sound enough to operate services) issues you with a number of 'O' licences (Operator Licences); each vehicle you run MUST have a valid 'O' licence as well as a valid tax disc, and the Traffic Commissioner can just as easily take some of your 'O' licences away as they can give you more (this is normally a sanction if you are caught running unfit vehicles etc); the Traffic Commissioner can also dictate the routing that you must follow, so the final decision where the bus goes is very often not down to the bus company.

          Just to make things more interesting, VOSA can pitch up anywhere they fancy (even the companies own premises) and inspect your vehicles at any time they like; any that are found to have a defect are issued with a PG9 for rectification, or if its a safety critical defect then it becomes a PG9 Immediate, which means that the vehicle must not be driven until repaired and retested.

          I completely agree with you that the public transport in this country is farcical at best - London and Edinburgh have it better than most (Lothian Buses in Edinburgh are very good indeed - they are mostly owned by Edinburgh City Council, so that bears out my opinion above), but even then when compared with other countries it could be so much better.

          The problem is funding - currently, a large chunk of the money you and I pay in taxation for these services is taken up with administrative bodies and contractors profits, rather than actually paying for the services themselves.
           
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          • clueless1

            clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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            Excellent post:dbgrtmb:

            I know what you mean here. I had the 'pleasure' of working for a private firm fulfilling a government contract for just over 10 years. Our company charged my services out to the government as follows:

            £280 per day retainer/support fees. +
            £750 per day project work
            £1030 per day cost to the government for my time. In effect, they were paying twice because I was always on project work and at the same time always on retainer/support.

            Of course I only saw a fraction of that money. I never worked out my effective daily rate because I was on a salary, but my salary was about the national average.

            I was one of about 20 people in my team. So gov/tax payer was paying over £20k per day for us to fulfil this contract.

            In addition to that, gov was also receiving regular invoices for the rent for our offices and any equipment we needed. One time we needed two new servers, and our supplier quoted us £37500. About £30k more than it ought to have been but they knew we were a bottomless pit. My boss was too busy to do the admin stuff so asked me to run it past gov. I did, expecting to jump through hoops. Half an hour after sending the email, I received authorisation to place the order. Government didn't even question why we wanted to spend the price of a house (at the time) on two average pieces of kit. I guess they didn't need to. They were after all paying £1000 per consultant per day to a private audit firm to ensure they were getting good value for money.
             
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            • Fat Controller

              Fat Controller Cuddly 'NEW SHED' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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              That is it in a nutshell clueless. The amount of admin created in our place is remarkable, and very little of it is for our benefit - the vast majority is to ensure that TfL are getting all the information they require, in the format they require it in; one particular report that gets sent on a daily basis required me to completely re-design a bespoke database to ensure that it supplied the report in the required format - they have openly admitted that these reports will be filed and not read (except on the very odd occasion when they want to use the information against us), and yet failing to submit the report will leave us open to fines come the time of an audit.

              Instead of employing people to do the jobs required, they are now employing armies of auditors, solicitors and directors to oversee the contracts with companies that have their own internal directors, auditors and admin staff - whether we like it or not, that means that there isn't as much being spent on the front line service as there could be without all those layers.

              No wonder this world is knackered.
               
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              • Jack McHammocklashing

                Jack McHammocklashing Sludgemariner

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                My bus trips since Apr 2007 are free :-)
                Workers can not get to work for me/us riding on the good destination routes
                St Andrews OR Anstruther, a wonderful day out to wonderful places

                One private coach company even gives us long trips up to the Highlands for tea or down to Dumfries for supper (has to stop at two stops for public pick up or it is an illegal public service, No one has ever got on there yet)

                I must say I have never done it yet, but my wife and her pal do it weekly for a run out for free, a coach trip around the Highlands, around loch Lomond and home

                The company has been taken to court twice, as not a public service, they just proved they did stop at set public bus stops but no one got on :-)

                Sorry FC I know you are struggling against this, but it is good for retired gardeners :-)

                Jack McHammocklashing
                 
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