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Barbara's Buswatch Blog




Are Mumbai's buses better than Birmingham's? Barbara Panvel, who has travelled on the sub-continent, has no doubt.

The Birmingham Post recently ran an article about Friends of the Earth trying to persuade Birmingham’s ‘Power 50’ to give up their cars for the day and Andy Munro decided to use the bus.

He encountered several of the intermittent deterrents of which Buswatch is aware:

  • the difference between timetable promise and performance
  • the alarming braking and acceleration
  • the cost
  • and occasional passenger misconduct

I regularly travelled on Mumbai buses which were frequent, very cheap, with conductors who expected – and got - exemplary behaviour from passengers. They scored more highly in all respects - apart from driving technique.

A Buswatch member recently commented: “Things have got so bad that it is quite difficult to imagine the level of improvement required to bring about bus services that are not just more efficient, but which enhance the local economy and bring real enjoyment and satisfaction to those who travel by bus, earning such loyalty from travellers that it will become impossible for politicians ever again to impoverish them as they have for the last quarter century”.

Will the new West Midlands Passenger Focus, with Passenger Manager Paul Fullwood, start to bring about that improvement?

Its goals include:

  • ensuring that operators, funders, and regulators of transport systems 'put passengers first';
  • tackling examples of poor passenger service;
  • promoting good practice in complaint handling;
  • building and delivering effective passenger representation for bus and coach passengers.

It had a pilot project in the West Midlands 20.08.2009 and met bus operators and service providers across the region. Passenger Focus sees an ambition to transform bus travel and looks forward to “playing an active role in ensuring passenger priorities are placed at the heart of the decision making across the region”.

Echoing Andy Munro’s findings a Handsworth member reports that the "real-time" information for the 11 bus has been unreliable on numerous occasions. He asks: “Why is there so often misinformation? Do drivers fail to switch on the apparatus?”

NXWM’s Nisha Pandoria offered an investigation of the June incident [injury due to reckless driving] on 10th July, with apologies because of pressure of work . . . but this is taking over three months to resolve . . .

The small injuries and inconvenience of its ‘captive’ West Midlands bus passengers must seem of no importance to the senior management of National Express who have a lot on their minds.

The company is heavily in debt after buying the Spanish Alsa Group and suffering substantial losses on its East Coast line.

The September deadline for the takeover bid by the Cosmen family of Spain and CVC Capital Partners in Luxembourg has been extended to October 16th by the City’s Takeover Panel.

Will a new broom sweep clean?


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