Press well kippered by fishy prospectus No Shock Horror
The 18 begins service at just after 0540 hours, and the last bus is after midnight. During the day, there is a departure every six minutes out to Sudbury. It is arguably the capital’s busiest bus route. So when alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson recently proclaimed “new funding to level up buses across England towards London standards”, some thought of the nice shiny Number 18. Others were more sceptical.
Those in the Westminster bubble see everything refracted through their own warped prism: they see all those red buses, with several operators running them but a single ticketing system. They see the Number 159 rolling along Whitehall and over Westminster Bridge 24 hours a day and think that is what bus services are like - end of story.
But outside the comfortable and incestuous world of the media class, lobby hacks, pundits, lobby groups and more of what Robin Day memorably, and rightly, called Here Today And Gone Tomorrow Politicians, lies reality. And reality is what hits the traveller as soon as he or she steps outside the railway station in middling sized towns like Crewe.
Crewe no longer has any bus service that runs any more frequently than once every 20 minutes. Evening and Sunday buses are few and far between, or not at all. The only reason there is a last bus from Leighton Hospital at 2012 hours - well filled with workers coming off shift - is because it is one of the few still subsidised by Cheshire East Council.
Vanishing bus, no left turn, no surprise there
The bus out to Macclesfield has an evening service - also paid for by Council subsidy - but there is no Sunday service. There are evening buses to Nantwich - but only on Friday and Saturday. There are three different operators in town, and no common ticketing - except for pensioners, who have free bus passes. One-off fares are not cheap: for family groups, they might as well call a private hire car. Buses here are a remaindered travel option.
So, once again, Bozo was shooting from the hip. There will be no “London standards” coming to any location outside the capital, or the big cities, in the foreseeable future. Also, the £3 billion pledged, er, isn’t: "a letter sent to Local Transport Authority directors by the Department for Transport on 11 January - and obtained by the Observer - makes clear that the budget for the ‘transformation’ of buses - a pot from which local regions can bid for funds - has now shrunk to just £1.4bn for the next three years”.
The paper has more. “Figures compiled by the shadow buses minister Sam Tarry’s office show the amount of funding bids submitted by 53 out of 79 local transport authorities from the extra funding pot is already more than £7bn. This suggests the total is likely to exceed £9bn, against a total available of £1.4bn”. Slow handclap for another broken promise.
Many parts of the country are worse off than towns like Crewe: they no longer have any bus service at all. The modern adage holds true: for those not within walking distance of a railway station, you have to run a car or call a cab. Or you’re screwed. Bozo talks the talk, and then comes grim everyday reality. Something else you won’t read in the papers.
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