Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 06/09/22


I know that in the scheme of things at the moment - set as it is against the backdrop of unpayable energy and food costs (and the concomitant inability of the corporate catamites of this state's political Úlite to do anything than murmur platitudes of faux concern) - what I'm about to rant about may seem small potatoes (which, naturally, are rocketing in price) indeed. But microcosms may adequately reflect a broader situation; as below, so above.

It's about buses again.

At the time of writing, we have three bus services operating to and from our fair realm:

12: Wrexham - Brymbo via Maelor Hospital and Brynteg

12A: Wrexham - Brymbo via Plas Coch Retail Park and Brynteg

14: Wrexham - Brymbo via Maelor Hospital and Tanyfron

To make things a little clearer (or not all that clear, given that I had to optimise the thing to buggery to obey my self-imposed strictures), here's a map which shows the Wrexham end of all three routes (the key is shown upper left):

Map of bus routes

As you can see, the 12A diverges quite markedly from the other two services, heading up to the top of the map, where it swings around the roundabout and heads back towards Mold Road on its way into town.

There was a time, not all that many years ago, when we had a total of five buses an hour up here; two 12s, two 12As (or '13s' as they were called at that point) and one 14. As the years have gone by, one of the 12s and one of the 13s/12As per hour were dropped, leaving us with three - one of each.

(During the depth of the COVID-19 damnpanic, the service was reduced further as a temporary measure, but was restored when things became a little less fraught).

Now, this arrangement proved perfectly satisfactory to me and my fellow passengers (sorry, I mean customers, of course; I'm a bit out of touch on market-speak). It was particularly useful for my weekly shopping jaunts to Sainsbury's (my supermarket of choice for thirty years more now by inertia than anything else), as said emporium stands at the very top of the map to the west of that roundabout. It meant, firstly, that I didn't have to lug two bags of consumer perishables hundreds of yards to the route of the 12/14 services; and, secondly, that the round trip could be accomplished in the minimal possible time.

(During a period of some six weeks or so early last year when - owing to an outbreak at the depot - the services were cut back still further - the 12A was withdrawn completely, so such lugging had to be made, and a right pain in the carryall it was.)

The rumour started going around about six weeks ago about 'revisions' to the services we get. Now, the noun 'revision' has a distinct and superficially contradictory pair of meanings when applied to bus services:

In the context of fares, it means 'increase'

In the context of services, it means 'decrease'

The meta-content of the word is, however, the same for both definitions: "Up yours!".

The news of the 'revisions' had come from something said to someone by one of the drivers, and was to the effect that the 12A was to be withdrawn completely.

As rumours like this had been bruited about before, and with the degree of accuracy you would expect from the 'they reckon that...' nature of such things, I thought it would be expedient to contact Arriva to see whether this one was true or mere scuttlebutt. So I e-mailed them on the fifth of August to get the definitive word, and to emphasise the point that, if true, the removal of the 12A would inconvenience a lot of people. I waited two weeks before getting a reply, which told me only that they were, "...still looking into it." This wasn't exactly encouraging, but all I could do was sit tight.

Tightly did I sit, brothers and sisters, until the middle of last week, when I noticed that Arriva had published new timetables. Upon downloading them, I found that, yes indeed, they were 'revising' (service definition) them to remove the 12A altogether and replace it with another 12.

As is customary when corporations and similar parasitical growths seek to screw over the public, Arriva attempted to justify this by claiming that they were 'enhancing' the service past the hospital. Now, get this: we up here already have two buses an hour going that way; although the villages of Pentre Broughton and Brynteg have had only one per hour, that has proven to be perfectly adequate; and the settlements of Southsea, New Broughton and Caego had not just the 12 and 14 but also the 11 and X51 services to choose from. The excuse is even more threadbare - to the point of transparency - when considering that Arriva themselves removed a 12 journey from the route less than six months ago. The old police phrase, "Don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining" came to mind.

And it's not as if the 12A service is underused in any case; if there are routinely nine or ten people using it shortly after 0700 on a Saturday morning, then how many use it during the rest of that day and on weekdays? There may now be fewer people using a bus at that time simply because it no longer provides the service they actually need.

So what does this mean, not just for me but for other people; elderly people, or people of reduced mobility, or even the students at Glyndŵr University who will no longer have a bus service past that noble institution (which, incidentally, is currently trying to excise the name 'Glyndŵr' from its name because it claims it detracts from the Uni's 'brand identity'; I say it's colonialism and the hell with it) who will either have to walk from the town centre, or from by my dear old pickle factory on Ellice Way to the Uni or Sainsbury's and back in all weathers? Or try to catch the 21 service, which will be the only one still going around Plas Coch?

Here is what it will entail in that last-named scenario: as it stands at the moment:

0710: catch the 12A to Sainsbury's

0730: arrive at Sainsbury's

do my shopping with only modicum of hurry

0817: catch the 12A from Sainsbury's

0840: get home

Total time: 1hr 30mins.

And here's what I face from next week:

0725: catch the 12 to the Bus Station in the town centre

0749: arrive at the Bus Station

0805: catch the service 21 from the Bus Station

0812: arrive at Sainbsury's

do my shopping

miss the next 21 back into town because that goes by at 0836, and there is no way I can get my shopping done in scarcely twenty minutes

0936: catch the next 21 into town

0943: arrive at the Bus Station

1000: catch the 12

1025: get home.

Total time: 3hrs.

Given that the alternative, as I say, is a fifteen-minute walk in each direction, the latter loaded with tins, bottles, jars and heavy packs of whatever, exactly what about the 'revised' service could be said to be 'enhanced', Arriva?

I see little point in making a complaint to them; at least one of the county (sorry, I mean, city, as of last week) councillors - not one of our own, I would add, but that of one of the villages further along the route - has tried to get them to see that what they are doing is stupid, as have a number of individuals of my acquaintance, all without success. I might still send them a sharp e-mail though, just to vent at the casual stupidity of persisting with a course of action despite having been told exactly to what extent it is stupid.

As I suggested at the beginning, this is much of a piece with the corporate arrogance and indifference which is endemic - pandemic, indeed - in the entirety of our society and economy, especially those parts which used to exist to provide services to the public rather than returns (guaranteed even by subventions by taxpayers) to shareholders - almost always other large corporations - and in keeping chief executives in the sybaritic manner to which they have become all too accustomed.

There are signs that, at long last, a sufficiently large proportion of the Great Malinformed British Public™ may be beginning to see through the perfumed narcotic smoke which has been blown in their faces for the last forty-odd years of neoliberal quackonomics. But it is likely to be too little, too late. Certainly too late to protect me and others more 'vulnerable' even than I am from having to stand in or walk through the rain, wind, sleet or snow just to keep myself from starving to death.