Saturday, May 15, 2010

Omnibus Obfuscation

"This is as much of the bus as we can afford, the form we need to apply for funding is so difficult to fill out."

The alteration of Stagecoach's 54 routing, omitting the Link Centre, West Swindon Centre and Freshbrook (except for two services to cater for school pupils), has generated a variety of reactions and explanations.

A petition isn't always the best way of making the strength of public opinion heard on an official level but it's laudable none-the-less.

The response from Stagecoach was detailed and informative as to the reasons for the route change. Unfortunately, the Advertiser haven't posted the comment from Stagecoach that was in their print edition online. I shall soon add a transcript of that comment.

Councillor Mick Bray's (Conservative, Freshbrook & Grange Park) letter to the Advertiser didn't show him being well versed in public transport policy both current and old. He talks of the route being introduced"out of the blue" in 2007, despite it being launched alongside the route 55 (which benefitted from central government investment as part of a kick-start scheme), which involved a local advertising campaign. Councillor Bray then complains about the"old story again of public transport companies applying for licenses to provide services which they terminate without any recourse or consultation with the local travelling public." , all of that is a result of the 1986 bus deregulation his own party introduced, allowing operators to withdraw routes.

Indeed, if Swindon Borough Council really believed in it's own concessionary travel scheme, it would have lobbied for greater funding as pensioners flocked onboard. The council spokesman berates Stagecoach for having had the kick-start money and then deciding to withdraw the route as a "commercial decision". I'm sure Stagecoach weren't expecting Swindon Borough Council to sit on it's hands and not try and get the money that allows the route to survive.

So don't expect Stagecoach to make anything other than "commercial decisions" when Swindon Borough Council isn't willing to do it's job in supporting socially necessary services and going after money.

Smaller points include that the reason Stagecoach have increased the 66 route to Oxford is because of local authority support from that council. Plus, Councillor Bray and Swindon Borough Council have been deafeningly quiet on the weekend cuts of the route 8 from half-hourly to hourly on a Sunday and the loss of the last Saturday evening departure (2315) from town.

Swindon Centric Says ; Have those route 8 services gone because Swindon Borough Council have withdrawn funding? I'm sure councils and councillors would rather talk loudly about cuts because of central government funding problems than those that are controllable from the town's own council budget, ultimately their responsibility.

I'm sure many councilors will make misinformed political-hay about these cuts, but will continue to use their own free pensioner's bus passes without hesitation about where the money to pay for them is (or isn't) coming from.


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