Transport User’s Forum

As I promised I would here I attended the public meeting at Walsall’s council house.

There were a lot of annoyed people: I got the impression normal attendance is 30ish, but there were at least 100 people there, and it was obviously very hard work to chair the meeting- so some genuine thanks to Marco Longhi for making sure people got their say, even if the answers may not have been what they wanted. It seems that the bus service changes in Walsall have really pissed off a lot of people.

A key problem with the public transport network is this: Since the deregulation in 1986, bus, train, and metro operators are private companies, and basically want only to make profit, as is normal for a company with shareholders to answer to. Many people at the meeting do not get this. They confuse Centro with TWM, and ask Centro why they’ve put other operators on a route at the same times as TWM (answer: they haven’t. It’s probably a bus war in progress), and Centro have little control.

The users have legitimate concerns. They want better service, better vehicles with low floors, and low cost, and the operators can’t deliver that and make a profit. Centro try to fill in the gap with sponsorship, but can’t (and are not allowed) to sponsor everything. As you might expect, the ‘less perceptive’ attendees then get all upset, and frustrated, and start shouting and whinging incoherently: the temptation to shout ‘shut up or piss off’ became strong…Do they expect Arriva or TWM to say “OK, we’ll make no profit this year so Mrs Smith can have a low-floor bus on her route”?

So where do we go? I left the meeting having aired my concerns: TWM will review bus frequencies for one, and many people complained about the bus station. It seems though that along with all the other users, in many ways we’re stuck with it thanks to the ridiculous policy of the Thatcher Government that has left us all with a public transport infrastructure that’s lacking and drives us all into our cars- those of us that can. The shouty people do deserve better service and their low-floor buses, but the present model can’t deliver. I’ve said it before and will say it again: Public transport and utilities should not be run by commercial companies. It’s just wrong to balance essentials like that against profit.

Evil Overlord No.14: an eternity swimming in effluent for the idiots that created this mess. Together with whoever built a multi-million pound bus station in Walsall that has insufficent capacity.

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