Saturday, 16 April 2011

Getting round just got that little bit harder

Over the last couple of years I’ve done quite a bit of travelling around England, from the Northumbrian borders with Scotland down to the English Riviera, and the thing that has kept striking me is actually how easy it is, usually, to get around, even without a car.

There’s been a few places that I haven’t been able to get to either because I’ve left it too late in the day, tried to go on a Sunday or in a couple of very rare examples there just isn’t any public transport to get you there.

I’ve taken the bus from Berwick to Alnwick on a Sunday morning, full sized double deck with just me on it the whole way, but I’ve also been wedged into a bus from Torquay that was so full I had to give up any chance of visiting the castle I was aiming for as I would never have been able to get off.

But now, it appears, things are about to change.

Standing in Wells waiting for the bus to Cheddar I noted, with some disquiet, the signs on the back of the bus shelters informing customers of the “amendments” to bus times that were due to come in force from tomorrow.

I think Amendment is a bit of a weak word to use when you actually mean whole scale slash and burn.

The most obvious example was the buses to Cheddar itself.

Today there are 15 buses, with the last one leaving Wells around 22:15, from tomorrow everything after 17:00 has been cut.

It means that in the height of summer, even if the weather is lovely and you were really looking forward to having an evening meal in Cheddar before heading back to Wells, Bristol, Bath or Weston you’ve got to be on the bus by 18:00 otherwise it’s going to be an expensive taxi ride.

Whilst I know there is a massive black hole in the public finances, and cuts do have to be made, it does appear that some of these are being made purely out of spite rather than any logical reason. Given how many people got off the bus at Cheddar this morning cutting the service will have an effect on the numbers visiting. At a time when we are supposed to be trying to encourage people to spend (and the tourist Pound, Dollar, Euro and Renminbi are now significant parts of the economy), it does appear a little illogical to make spending it more difficult (though some taxi drivers may disagree with me on that one!)

Perhaps it is just North Somerset council that are carrying out such large scale mutilations to their public transport infrastructure, but somehow I don’t think they are alone, and in future it’s going to take that bit longer, and be that bit more complicated to visit places that aren’t slap bang in the middle of a large urban space.

Given they don’t appear to be cutting, perhaps it’s time to focus on travelling Wales and Scotland instead.

It’s probably far too early to say public transport in England is dying, but it’s certainly suffering from a number of serious knife wounds and at present is stable in hospital, unfortunately we’ve also just cut funding to hospitals…

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