Coming of age

Coming of age

Claire Walters wants us to update our view of the bus from the sentimental nostalgia of Blakey and the gang in On the Buses to the hi-tech, low-emission lynchpin of modern day transport.

If even a small change in a bus service is proposed, the impact on many people’s ability to carry on regardless is often dramatic.

Communities rely on buses to make everything work. Employers rely on buses to get their staff to work. Kids can’t get to school or training or work experience/interviews without them.

So why on earth do we take them for granted?

Are we really daft enough to think buses haven’t changed since we were at schools, or that ‘On the Buses’ represents the reality of 21st century bus and drivers?

Are we so wedded to our cars that we can’t see that we’re the people causing the pollution that’s damaging our children’s health and the environment we say we want to protect?

Billions more of public money is poured into train and tram projects than is even considered for bus service improvements, even though they carry fewer people and are completely inflexible. Most of the investment on the very fancy clean, green buses we now see and accept as normal, with the comfortable smooth ride, charging points and wifi, is being provided by private bus operators in order to attract more passengers, not that they get much credit for it…

If snow, floods or slippery leaves stops trains from travelling and makes trams tracks too slippery and dangerous, what form of transport keeps us going through the very worst of conditions? Three guesses. And while we’re on the subject, if something else goes wrong with a train or tram, who rescues the passengers? Buses do.

Whenever we have a successful sporting achievement, the standard response is to hold an open-top bus parade. Isn’t it about time we recognise just how much this country depends on the bus services we have and to celebrate the fact that we are very lucky to have the quality of service we enjoy in the vast majority of places around the country?

If we don’t start to cherish the role and performance of the bus in UK society, and protect the subsidies needed to keep it working for all of us, we may end up only realising just how important it was once it’s gone.

Do us all a favour – catch a bus this week.

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