Monday, 29 November 2010

Look North 29.11.10 The bus that did'nt stop

Yesterday the news bulletins of BBC Look North carried prominently a bus story which must have made viewers laugh and the bus company cringe.

The snow scene showed a main road, a lady who had walked from her village a mile. She was stood at a bus stop beside a dual carriageway. Along comes a little yellow bus branded Tynedale Links and it rushes past her in the fast lane. She is annoyed.

Do these things happen by co-incidence? I think not and here is the explanation of it all. The location is a bus stop on the A69 called Ovington Road Ends. The lady I am told used to work for the BBC and lives in Ovington. How else would a film crew co-incidentally get here and find a passenger? You try it.

The bus belongs to Go North East who have been doing remarkable things in the snow, see their Facebook pages to prove that. It was working a Hexham Newcastle 684 route. The bus stop the lady was on is a Hexham Newcastle 685 route. Big difference because this is where the two routes diverge. She was waiting for the wrong bus.

The problem arose because the 684 bus is usually always in the fast lane at this point as it proved to be, because it is about to turn right,a difficult task on this dual carriageway. It then goes to the villages of Ovington Ovingham and Wylam. Because of the snow there had been difficulties in serving the villages and buses had had to stay on the A69. The bus was in the usual outside lane so that the driver could assess whether he could indeed turn right and serve the villages. He decided he could not but neither was he in any save position to serve the passenger.

It looks like something of a set up job by the BBC and one is left asking whether the passenger has thought of ringing GNE in good time to tell the bus company there would be a passenger at the "wrong stop". With acknowledgements to folk on that very helpful Yahoo group Busesnortheast for information which filled in some of the gaps. The real villain in the piece is Northumberland County Council who have been unable or unwilling to clear bus routes despite which the bus company instead of sitting in their warm depots have come out to try to operate them. If this sounds unfair, spending some time in the cold at Prudhoe Interchange over the last few days most perfectly illustrates this. The nearby main road was drivable so the buses got here. The interchange and adjacent bus stops which is also public highway was ignored by the clearance teams and buses were frequently sticking.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Media Phenomenon which is Go North East's Facebook pages

A brief post which is a heads up to a media phenomenon deserving of recognition. Look at!/simplyGNE .As the snow cut in on Thursday, Fiona the wife who was already on Facebook persuaded me I had to join in order to follow the minute by minute account of what was happening out there. Managers, passengers, drivers all seemed to be contributing. At that moment there were some 5,400 liking the page. Just now there are 9,601. That is a phenomenon in four days. It shows to those who are sceptical how a social networking site can be positively used by a regional bus company to engage cost effectively with their customer base. So much better than the clunky hardware heavy route which the Council authorities seem interested in following. By that I mean the real time bus displays. Examples of these have been installed at taxpayers cost in Prudhoe. They only cover one route and that I am not convinced accurately. Other bus routes use the stops and are ignored.