The Judge RANTS!
(Yeah, I've used that title before - so sue me)
It has been bruited about for some weeks now that our bus services hereabout were going to be 'revised'...
('Revised' is one of those peculiar words in the lexicon of cantemporary cont which can be used to mean two diametrically opposed concepts: in the same way as 'reform' can mean either 'improve' or 'cut', so 'revised' can mean either 'increased' - when used of bus fares - or 'decreased', when used - as it is in our example for today - of bus services).
The stated reasons were clear enough: in keeping with the absolute necessity of maintaining politicians and their official minders in the style to which we have allowed them to become all too accustomed, cuts in public spending must be made in less vital areas, such as in the services upon which so many of us rely. So it is with the subsidies given to bus operators to continue running services which otherwise might hurt those companies' boddom line.
The 'revised' (second meaning implied, as will be seen) timetables for our routes have just been published on Arriva's website. They make for grim reading, and for a degree of utter bafflement on Yer Judge's part.
Let me give you a quick précis of what we currently have, Monday to Saturday:
- Service 12: runs from here at ten past and twenty to the hour. Goes via Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
- Service 13: runs from here at twenty minutes past and ten to the hour. Goes via Plas Coch Retail Park and Glyndŵr University.
- Service 14: runs from here at the top of the hour, via The Lodge and Tanyfron.
And this is what awaits us from the second week in November:
- Service 12: to run from here at the top of the hour and at twenty minutes to the hour.
- Service 13: axed completely.
- Service 14: to run from here at five minutes to the hour, and to run via the new estate and the 'Spine Road', thus missing out The Lodge altogether. I'll come back to this in a paragraph or three.
In short, we will go from five buses an hour down to three. But that's not the daft thing about it. Look at those timings again: one bus (14) at five to the hour, another (a 12) at the top of the hour, and one (12 again) at twenty to the hour. So, that's three buses in the space of twenty minutes and then none for forty minutes.
I know from recent experience that, for example, the 12 at 0740 is standing-room only once it gets two-thirds of the way down, and that's with a gap of only twenty minutes after the one before. I shudder to think how bad it's going to be with a space twice that long, especially since Arriva have hardly any buses with a seating capacity of more than 31 any more. And coming out of Wrexham is going to be similarly intolerable. People are going to be driven past or prevented from boarding, and the whole thing is going to go to shit.
For myself, the 'revised' (same meaning as before) timetable is going to cause a major problem. You see, I regularly get the 0720 service 13 to work. Now that won't run at all, but there won't be a bus for twenty minutes either side of that time. That will mean either having to take my chances with the 0740 service 12 - with all the potential for hilarity that I've described above - or get up at 0600 to catch the 0700. Indeed, anyone needing to get to work in Wrexham before 0800 would have to catch the 0700 to be sure of getting there on time (or at all), and this for a journey of scarcely four miles.
It also means that I won't be able to get a bus straight home from Sainsbury's after my Monday shopping,
and would have to either lug my purchases about a quarter of a mile to the nearest stop on the 12 route (and hope that there would be room on it), or catch Arriva's 21 - which seems to be the only one of their services which will still be going past Sainsbury's - into town and hope to grab a seat on the next 12 or 14.
If you think that's a mess, I said that I'd come back to the service 14, didn't I?
At present, this runs via Southsea into Tanyfron, back down to Southsea then via The Lodge to Brymbo. As I said, the 'revised' (need I say?) version will go up to Tanyfron and then along the 'Spine Road' to Brymbo. But the madness doesn't end with the people of The Lodge losing their service entirely.
You see, since time immemorial - or forty-odd years, which to me is about the same thing - buses to Tanyfron - be they Arriva, their predecessors at Crosville, or D. Jones' who also run a service to Tanyfron (but no further in their case) - have always run anti-clockwise through the old part of the village. As a result, the bus stops are all on the 'inner' side of the loop, with no counterpart on the opposite side because no buses have ever run that way around except on temporary diversions.
Arriva local management's master stroke of madness will now entail their buses trying to run clockwise through the old village. Now, consider that fact in the light of what I have just said, if you would be so kind. There are no bus stops on the side that they will need to be on if this new way of working goes ahead. Not only that, but the stop just above Tanyfron school doesn't even have a pavement on that side, just a tall hedge bordering a farmer's field.
Here's more lunacy: it is difficult enough at the moment for buses to make the turn left at the bottom of Park Road to go down past the school because of vehicles parked just below (or even dead opposite) the junction. Try to imagine the problem of a bus trying to turn right from Tanyfron Road onto Park Road, when - contrary to the evidence in the photograph you've just seen - there are invariably cars, vans, what-'ave-you parked near the junction (and sometimes on both sides, too).
And, just to add the final touch of steaming-turd insanity to it, the new route will miss out Bryn Gwenfro, St Alban's View and Cae Merfyn altogether and try to go straight up Park Road. The thing about that is that, a) Park Road gets narrower as you go up, and b) there are always but always cars parked on both sides of it. This means that getting a car along the upper stretch of Park Road is something which can only be suitably accompanied by a soundtrack of Nick Lowe singing this. Thinking of getting a bus through it is delusory thinking of a kind seldom encountered outside of senior management in the Civil Service or the Labour Party's Scotland branch.
(The thought now occurs to me that the bus stops will be on the correct side when the bus is returning to Wrexham, but that might be scant consolation for anyone who's had to jump through the hedge I referred to earlier in order to avoid being mown down by an Optare, Dennis Pointer or one of the new-fangled growling Dennis Enviro 200s trying to make time on the way up).
At the end of all this, I can think of only three reasons why these changes have been made in the way that they have:
- Arriva's local management have put the needs of their driver and vehicle rostering before the needs of the passengers (sorry, 'customers'), and that in the case of the 14 they have not even tried to test the proposed route in real-time, real-world conditions, or
- They are indulging in a game of brinkmanship with the Council to see whether the outrage resulting from all this slashing and mashing will bring political pressure to bear and make the Council blink first, or
- They have gone absolutely bat-shit.
(The betting odds currently stand at 2-1 against the first, 4-1 against the second and about 5-1 against the last)
As for me, I had thought of switching to the other company running services up here - GHA of North Wales, large chunks of Cheshire and ultimately, no doubt, The Universe - but their weekly tickets seem to be nearly 50 per cent more expensive even than Arriva's, and I would still have either to get up earlier or get to work later than at present.
Public service seems to be a thing of the past, doesn't it?