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The rubbishness of public transport

simon gray 2010-05-01, 11:24:33
Read this article aloud — 659 words

I’m writing this starting at 10:05 sat on a stationary train headed for Rugby. Not – as I should be – walking through the streets of Coventry having got off the train five minutes ago, heading towards a meeting which is due to start at 10:30.

It is of course entirely my own fault. I mean, silly me – I made the stupid error of assuming that because every single other train to London stops first at Birmingham International, then at Coventry, the journey taking a mere 20 minutes, that the 09:42 from Birmingham New Street would also stop first at Birmingham International, then at Coventry. So naturally it didn’t occur to me to stand there for some minutes whilst the display scrolled round to confirm my assuption. Why would I need to? Apparently my quickest way to Coventry now is to get off at Rugby and then get a bus; the ticket man didn’t say whether it was a rail-replacement bus from the station or whether I’d have to wander around looking for some other information about buses – and pay for a bus fare on top of my train fare. So, I’ll be lucky to get to the meeting which finishes at 4pm by lunchtime, making the value of my attendance now questionable. The cost of this exercise in time wasting so far – around £10, including the rail ticket and the extortionately priced coffee and breakfast sandwich. To put that into perspective, the cost of my night on Broad Street last night with some good friends was, including my meal, only £14.

Last Saturday public transport let me down too – I had to attend a meeting in Cotteridge, thinking the 10 minute train ride from Five Ways to Kings Norton would be a doddle. Sadly there had been a power failure at New Street first thing in the morning which had stuffed things up, but when the Network Rail website at 3pm was giving the impression things were nearly back to normal I thought it seemed better than the bus. After about half an hour at Five Ways with no sign of when a train might come I re-evaluated that decision and opted to risk my life on the 8A Inner Circle to then pick up the 45 at Pershore Road. Arriving at the 8 bus stop over the road from Five Ways I found a sign giving me all the information I might need to know about locations of city centre bus stops, but nothing to tell me when the bus which went past this stop might be expected to arrive, or even how frequent it was. After 15 minutes I gave up and started walking. My return journey at 7pm wasn’t much better – at Kings Norton station the trains were still stuffed up with no indication of when one might come on the screens, and the man on the end of the loudspeaker-box on the platform was still saying my train hadn’t left Longbridge (and he didn’t know when it would do) literally as it pulled up at the platform 20.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the principle of public transport; it annoys me massively when, with the planet on the brink of environmental catastrophe and the city on the brink of total gridlock, that catastrophe and gridlock is being exascerbated by people with bus stops outside their houses get in cars to drive to workplaces with bus stops outside their offices.

But when I, as an occasional public transport user (I’m fortunate enough to be able to walk to most places I need to get to) who believes in it has such a poor experience of it three times out of every four, who can blame them?

#rant #transport

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The code behind this site is a bit of an abandoned project; I originally had lofty ambitions of it being the start of a competitor for Twitter and Facebook, allowing other people to also use it turning it into a bit of a social network. Needless to say I got so far with it and thought who did I think I was! Bits of it don't work as well as I'd like it to work - at some point I'm going to return to it and do a complete rebuild according to modern standards.