Friday, 16 July 2010

Bus Company Blues

So we get to the Council meeting about transport.

It's tea and biscuits all round. Served by the admirable Village Hall Volunteer Ladies.

There's a table at the front laid out with printed name labels: three from Rival Bus Company; one from the Bus Company From Hell; two County Council "Transport" and "Rural Transport" labels; three Volunteer Transport Scheme labels - and one for Madame Chairman.

Everybody is milling about being very jolly and greeting one another. GreyDoll takes a chair in the body of the hall. Drinks her tea.
And looks at The Agenda.

The hall fills up. Glancing at the top table, GreyDoll sees that the label for the Representative for the Bus Company From Hell has been exchanged for a hastily handwritten one with a different name on it.

The Representatives and Councillors file in. The three Rival Bus Company reps are outfitted in collar, tie, and logos. The bewildered looking rep from the Bus Company from Hell, with his biroed name label, is sitting disconsolately at the end of the table in his shirt sleeves.

"With apologies" he says in his introduction. "I was told late this afternoon to come to the meeting. As my colleagues could not make it."

I bet they couldn't.

Oh, I'll be honest. GreyDoll thought she'd never get to speak or ask a question. The items process slowly, with everybody addressed by Madame Chairman on first name terms. The first question involves a lot of interminable bickering about precise bus stop locations in Helston.

However the complaints about the Bus Service from Hell start to mount up. The Competitor Bus Company Reps look on with satisfaction.

Old Buses, dirty buses, expensive fares, inefficient services, doubledeckers on narrow country lanes. The Representative for Buses From Hell can provide no answers. On anything. It is all either "Out of our hands", or "I don't have that information with me, I'm afraid."
Even the audience begins to feel sorry for him.

Eventually the local councillor eyeballs Madame Chairman into spotting GreyDoll's presence. And - on autopilot herself - the GreyDoll decides to recount a particular journey to the County Hospital. Two hours each way starting at 9 in the morning; The Old Man without breakfast because of the examination he was to have; the pleading with the hospital to let him out by 5.45 for last possible bus connection; - and the eventual arrival home around 9 o'clock that evening.

This seems to shock a few people.

Plainly they aren't in the habit of using buses to get to Hospital.

Councillor claps GreyDoll on the shoulder. Apparently she has galvanised something or other. So debate grows more heated.
As does the attack on the Bus Company from Hell.

For good measure, at some point, GreyDoll throws in the magical mystery tour of July 2nd.

She is well matched by the mother from a nearby village whose teenage daughter has to surrender more than an hour's earnings of her part-time wage in order to travel to the said part-time job in the next town.

This is followed by a well caught pass describing the recounted experience of a German family on holiday who parted with £18 in fares to travel from one village to another two or three miles away. Their verdict on the bus and their journey involved the verb "Schtinken".

However - what dawns on GreyDoll, and a few others, is that those who live on the route run by the Bus Company from Hell - are stuck with it.

As the County Councillor for Transport points out. This is a commercially viable route. Run by a commercial operator. And the Council only undertakes to subsidise those routes which are NOT commercially viable, but are considered necessary.

GreyDoll believes this is starting to sound like that old chestnut: "Catch-a 22".

She staggers out into the village night. The "Rural Transport" Councillor and the Age Concern "Volunteer Hospital Transport" Lady both have a word, and offer help and contact on the County Hospital access thing. So thank you for that.

GreyDoll will await the promised emailed Drafts of Suggested Plans of Action from the Panel.

And fantasise about the prospect of her only available local bus route becoming either unviable commercially for the Bus Company From Hell - or very commercially viable for the Rival Bus Company.

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