Friday, 1 June 2012

Sunday Service Blues!

It's that Friday evening moment when the country collectively looks out across the horizon and notices 4 whole days off! (Well, not for some of us, but I digress!)
The summer appears to be upon us and the nation is about to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, line the streets to watch the Olympic flame, or simply join the hordes at the shops.
We're a crowded nation. Many places look likely to be busy across the extended Bank Holiday weekend, yet that most familiar of notices appears on buses, websites and information displays - "Buses are operating to a Sunday Service".
The railways are operating largely a Saturday service (at least locally to me in the West Midlands) and there are extra trains to cope with the crowds for the Jubilee. Yet the buses revert to something of a lesser level of provision.
I know I'm generalising here. Some areas will have an enhanced service where demand is perceived to be required, but I'd like to bet at least a couple of pints that someone over the next couple of days will ask me why the buses aren't running so frequently.
In Merry Hill, there will be long queues for car parking spaces. Tempers will fray. Why isn't demand being looked at again, or even experimental higher frequencies - or even Saturday service levels - tried? For years we didn't have buses on Boxing Day in the Centro area. Some forward thinking person at Centro tried with a subsidy - risky maybe - but it worked well, and now we even have some commercial Boxing Day routes running. Why can't this be tried on other Bank Holidays? Demand is surely there, at least in some areas.
Maybe in days past Bank Holidays were quieter affairs. But certainly in more recent years, I've always volunteered to work as many places are overflowing with crowds. This ought to be a shop window for public transport - to say, "come on, try us, we're here for you as a real alternative to visit places". The railways (apart from where there is engineering work) are doing this, but the bus industry is yet to follow en masse.
It is, of course, easy for me to suggest this. I'm not a private company taking a commercial risk on something that might not work. I am, however, a cheerleader for public transport.
And the lack of at least a Saturday level of service across Bank Holidays on our bus network leaves me thinking that the industry is actually missing a trick.