Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Public Transport Grumbles

Another rant, I'm afraid. I think I've said here before that the Tyne and Wear Metro doesn't provide the service it should, or that it used to. I have quite a list of grumbles: fares going up well above the rate of inflation every year; distorted station announcements with the beginning cut off for months at a time; ticket machines that don't work and no published timetable for the supposed investment in new ones; dirty and overcrowded trains; services that finish just when you need them most; having to wait 20 minutes on more than one occasion with the board saying "Next train 2 minutes" for the whole time and no spoken announcement. From the dismissive replies I've had to a couple of letters about Metro's shortcomings, I get the impression that the Metro management is not really interested in customer service.

The thing that gets my goat the most - and this applies to the buses too - is that there are no trains on Christmas Day or New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, I've just discovered that, as on Christmas Eve, we get a reduced service, with only one train an hour from 6pm. Is this because of lack of demand? Hardly. New Year's Eve is potentially one of the busiest times of the year for public transport. People want to travel to enjoy themselves, are likely to be drinking alcohol, and walking is not an attractive option because of the weather. Where are the posters about the Christmas and New Year shutdown? I've been looking for the past couple of weeks and haven't seen any. I didn't know that "the usual" was happening until today, when the words "NEW YEARS EVE HOURLY SERVICE FROM 18:00" flashed up on the board at Gateshead.

If national and local government are remotely serious about reducing car usage and drink driving, then public transport has to be regarded as an essential service like hospitals and power stations - operating 365 days a year. I've no doubt passengers would be prepared to pay a little extra if necessary to give drivers a Christmas/New Year bonus, and I'm sure drivers could be found to work on these days. To go on year after year shutting down public transport at such important times shows an astounding degree of complacency. As some European cities (such as Berlin) manage to run public transport then, it'll be interesting to see if the proposed Metro takeover by Deutsche Bahn brings a change...

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