My journey home yesterday, which went fine in the end as far as Oldham, suddenly went pear-shaped at that point.
As a rule, when I travel from Manchester on the tram I cross my fingers that the tram, one of a system that runs every 12 minutes, will arrive in time to coincide more or less with a bus to our village, one of a system that runs every half hour, which becomes every hour in the evening. So yesterday afternoon I was pleased to arrive at the bus stop a good ten minutes before the bus was due to leave.
It actually arrived five minutes before its scheduled departure time. Presumably people arriving at the bus stop in the town centre would just assume the bus had been cancelled, something which happens often enough to make that a reasonable assumption. But that is a different problem.
The driver of yesterday’s bus got off and left. It was driver changeover time. She checked no passes and issued no tickets before she left. Anyone and everyone could get on the bus and travel free. We waited. Just before the bus was due to leave a fresh driver turned up. We all heaved a sigh of relief. By now the passengers had bonded somewhat. Many knew each other by sight anyway from frequent travel or from living in the same area. Stories of travel experiences on the 350 bus had been exchanged. We all felt better for having vented a little frustration. It was, however, late afternoon and everyone just wanted to get home.
The driver started the engine, filled in some paperwork, checked various things in his cab and then switched off the engine and got out his phone. While he did this a couple of new passengers arrived, asking what number this bus was. That went some way to explaining the problem: no outer info screens working. We heard our driver giving details to his superiors: his name and employee number, his location, the number of the bus - not the route number but the longer number that identifies the vehicle itself - and a report of an unspecified technical problem. He then explained that the depot was sending a technician; we should be on our way shortly.
Except that we weren’t!
Other buses arrived at the bus-interchange. Some people got off and went to catch these other buses. Lucky them! Others of us really only had this bus to get us home.
Our driver was walking around outside, talking to other drivers. Earwigging on the driver’s further telephone calls, we gleaned that the technician had arrived but had gone to the wrong bus, discovered his mistake and went back to the depot. Great!
We were beginning to comment that it would soon be time for the next bus to come along. Just then a chap with what looked like a large oilcan turned up. Whether he used his large oilcan or not remains a mystery but he did something at the front of the bus and left.
And so did we!
Only twenty minutes spent sitting on a cold bus!
Is this what happens when public transport is put out to private contract? Are they using defective or worn-out buses? Is some corner-cutting taking place? I wonder!