On the buses

It seems like only yesterday[1] that I had a bit of a moan about the changes to my local bus service. Well, this morning, the bus company put some nice leaflets through my door. One was the timetable I’d already seen and complained about, but the other was actually more useful.

And it seems that there actually is some good news. The fares are being simplified and actually reduced. At the moment, the fare from Gateshead Metro to home is 90p if I go the quick way, and £1 if I go the long way round. On the new service, where there’s only one way to go, and which won’t actually get me all the way home, this will be reduced to 70p. And the fare into Newcastle reduces from £1.30 to £1. Regular travellers can get a weekly ticket for £7.50, which is actually a pretty good deal. Full marks to Go North East for that. The leaflet even includes four vouchers worth £2.50 off weekly tickets – one per week for all of September. A nice touch.

Unlike the timetable leaflet, this one actually mentions a frequency for the daytime service, and as I suspected, it’s every ten minutes. The leaflet points out that

We are doubling our frequency to Newcastle

Now that is quite true, but it fails to mention that this is being achieved by halving the frequency to and from Gateshead Metro. And that’s what’s going to cause problems. A lot of people travel into Gateshead to shop, or to catch the Metro to numerous destinations. And, oddly enough, they like to go home again afterwards. Now there will be fewer buses to catch, and with the inevitable delays caused by buses travelling through the city centre, I can see long queues of annoyed people developing. This happens now, come to think of it, but it’s about to get a lot worse.

It seems that some thought has been given to this. The leaflet assures us that

Special arrangements are being made to regulate the service to ensure there are no gaps in service and all our buses are fitted with ‘Automatic Vehicle Location’ systems, so that their operation is reported to each of the stops with electronic displays.

OK, I understand the second bit. It means when you get to the bus stop, you’ll see a sign telling you how late your bus is going to be. But the first bit is mysterious. Will they find extra buses and drivers to fill in when the last three buses are stuck in a traffic jam on Grainger Street? Have they installed a secret teleport system to free buses from those traffic jams? Only time will tell.

Overall, I’m still singularly unimpressed with these changes. Apparently they had market researchers asking passengers how they’d like the service to be improved. My guess is that what people asked for was:

  • More frequent service to Newcastle
  • More stops in Newcastle
  • Lower fares

And it has to be admitted that they are doing that. But I’m pretty sure people didn’t ask for:

  • Less frequent service to Gateshead
  • Half as many buses from Gateshead

Another thing that I realised today. The 53 is the most convenient service for people going to Gateshead Leisure Centre. That won’t be the case any more. While people will be able to return from there on the 54, getting there from Gateshead Metro will be more difficult.

[1] In fact, it was!

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