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Barabara's Buswatch Blog

BUSWATCH GETS MOVING

12-06-2009

A major new initiative has been launched to relay feedback from bus users in the West Midlands. Barbara Panvel reports on the first meeting of a campaign first floated on The Stirrer.

The Chair of the Campaign for Better Transport in the West Midlands notes, “European cities can have world class public transport systems. Barcelona, Lyon, Copenhagen and Berlin spring to mind”. He asks: “Why can't Birmingham?”

In 2007 the editor of The Stirrer asked “Why is bus use so unpopular? High fares? Poor timetables? Unreliability? Anti social behaviour?” Replies on the message board showed that all of these are factors.

Two years later he was still writing about our unreliable buses. As a regular off-peak user of the Number 11 Outer Circle route in Birmingham, he said that at night it’s not uncommon for a scheduled services to go missing altogether, leaving passengers waiting 40 minutes at a draughty bus stop. That only has to happen once to persuade anyone who can afford it to switch to the car – or take a cab.

As he concluded: “without tougher action, buses will continue to be the transport choice of last resort – a Cinderella service for people who always arrive late for the ball”.

Concern about non-stop-drivers finally prompted the coming together of a group of regular bus users living in different areas: Moseley, Handsworth, Bournville, Shirley, Yardley Wood, Stourbridge, Balsall Heath, Kings Heath, Selly Park and Solihull. They have agreed to report to Travelcare & the Stirrer each month.

Buswatch feedback: May 2009


Buswatch

During Buswatch’s first month there have been no reports of poor driving or failure to stop - only one message from a Small Heath resident who wants more bus shelters and more buses at peak hours.

After the regular flow of complaints this silence was surprising. Are all the drivers amongst the 15,000 or so readers of the Stirrer each month and - forewarned - now on their best behaviour? I doubt it; there is another factor at work on one of the non-stop drivers’ routes between Birmingham and Solihull.

Passengers now look forward to the clean and cheaper single deckers run by the new family-run bus operator AM PM Travel, whose smart, courteous and skilful drivers not only stop but also have been seen waiting for passengers running toward stops.

This has had a marked effect on Travel West Midlands [National Express] drivers who have actually been inspired to show the same consideration. So we salute AM PM Travel and hope that they will be able to extend their services to other routes.

Pam has designed a form which can be filled in by other group members to record problems or particularly good service.

Next month pictures of the interiors of buses serving a ‘Cinderella’ area and a ‘Showcase’ route will be presented. Though passengers pay the same fare they face very different conditions.

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