When my last car packed in, I decided against getting another. I also decided I’d leave the family car at home, as Jane would likely need it more often than I would, so I decided to start taking the bus into town then walking the last 2 miles to work. While it gets me over an hour of exercise every day, it also leaves me at the mercies of public transport!
We live in a small town about 5 miles from Aberdeen. But its far enough that the bus company that covers Aberdeen (First Bus) doesn’t cover out here, so we’re left with Stagecoach. Its a damning indictment of the deregulation of public transport that instead of the promised competition, what we’re left with is monopolies that are bad for the consumer. I find it hard to believe that First Bus wouldn’t consider coming the additional couple of miles from Cove – between us and Aberdeen City Centre. Its almost like they and Stagecoach came to a cosy little agreement to not step on each other’s toes too much. Not that I’d ever say they run a cartel of course!
But despite a considerable number of people using the bus between Stonehaven, Portlethen & Aberdeen, we are so poorly serviced. Year-on-year, the service has deteriorated. For example, I used to get the bus home at Holburn Street – about a mile maybe from the bus station – when there was a bus servicing Portlethen every 15 minutes or so. Back then, you could guarantee getting on a bus. Then the service slowly changed. First of all, one of the buses that serviced Portlethen via the new houses at Hillside (109/8) had its route changed so it didn’t come up to Holburn. Then one of the buses was changed to an express bus for Stonehaven/Dundee where local passengers (Aberdeen City, Cove, Portlethen) are “discouraged” from using to save seats for those travelling further on. I’ve been refused entry to this bus a couple of times, despite having already paid for my four-weekly ticket, and the bus passing the stop I get off at. So, we were left with 2 buses at hour that are often full by the time they reach Holburn. After a few times having to wait for another bus because one is full, I ended up going right down to the bus station.
Even then though, there seems no guarantee when a bus will show – if it does at all. A few times a scheduled bus has been a no-show. Then there is the idea that the timetable is indicative – not even that sometimes. Lateness is often an issue. I get the bus at 610am to work. Now, that time has been brought forward a few times thanks to endless timetable changes. But even with the time now being before 610am, I still make it to the stop on time…only for the bus to be late on a daily basis. 10 minute delays – sometimes more – are common. This is despite the bus only starting off a few miles away in Stonehaven with virtually no traffic on the road.
Then there are the constant route changes. The bus now goes round Cove – I could count the number of passengers who have got on to the bus in Cove on the fingers of 2 hands since the route changed months ago. This is all the contempt that Stagecoach have for current paying passengers. Constant route changes, changes to the timetable, wanton tardiness, dropping the service without warning or explanation. To be fair, most of the drivers are reasonable people, but they’ve got the odd few who couldn’t care less that they’re the public face of their company. Have had a few who would refuse entry to their bus without feeling the need to be polite about it.
I’m trying to do my bit by using public transport when I could easily take the car (although it would be a nuisance for Jane) but I’m afraid bus deregulation has failed the passengers utterly. We’ve got an unreliable service that we’re paying ever increasing fares for, and that the taxpayer is also subsidising. Is it too much to ask for a decent service? It would seem so.