Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Controller Of The Bus

Buses remain a popular (perhaps by necessity), if somewhat frustrating, means of transport. There are various bus companies dotted around the country, with some performing far better than others.

My local area is served by Arriva, and sadly I have had some recent cause for complaint. Despite the fact that fares seem to increase every few months, services don’t always run as expected and communication with customers is rather lacking.

Living in a more rural area, we certainly seem to get a rough deal. With buses timetabled at varying intervals of between one and two hours, we suffer terribly when a certain bus fails to turn up, which seems to be happening more frequently. What makes this even more frustrating is that our complaints and comments fail to be met with any concern by Arriva.

Following a disastrous journey, when yet another bus failed to turn up as expected, meaning a two-hour gap between buses, I used the online complaints procedure operated by Arriva. The automated email response assured me that I would receive a reply within ten working days – over two weeks later I was still waiting!

Eventually, nearer three weeks after the event, I was called by an adviser, who although uttered an apology, did not make it heartfelt, nor were there any promises to endeavour to provide a better service in future. Despite the mechanical ‘sorry’, the tone of the whole conversation indicated more of a ‘hard luck’.

The missing bus was blamed on a breakdown, which I appreciate does happen, but my real gripe was lack of information. Considering I was boarding the bus at a major bus station to journey home, and had spoken to an inspector who had assured me that the bus was on its way, I was naturally frustrated that I was not told when it was discovered that the bus was taken out of service.

According to the adviser at the other end of the telephone, this was because the bus station had not been informed. But why ever not? Surely keeping passengers informed of such circumstances should be a priority. It should have been quite straightforward to notify someone at the bus station of the problem, with that person then passing on the message to waiting passengers. This should just be basic procedure.

However, it seems that bus operators can just do as they please, even if it involves leaving passengers stranded for hours, without much thought for their welfare. Communicating with the public seems totally beyond them and they really don’t seem bothered by this. The problem is, in many areas, there is no decent competition to make the bus companies try harder. There is no incentive to be more customer friendly.

There are, I believe, some bus companies that serve passengers better than others. On a trip visiting family in Dorset, it struck me how much cheaper and how more frequent services were than in my area. Indeed, I’ve heard that in some areas fares are very reasonable, but Arriva South East certainly run a more costly service that leaves much to be desired.

Indeed as I write this post I’ve heard of a reduction in services on certain routes, combining a current half-hourly service with a twenty-minute one, forming a hybrid of the two routes with buses running half-hourly. Yet their advert for this new service proclaims: “Buses more often”! Can’t work that out at all; Arriva obviously can’t do their maths.

What do you think of your local bus service?

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