DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY! by Peter Ladefoged

Your regional council has recently launched a campaign to encourage people to make greater use of local buses and trains and to leave their cars at home. There is, however, in your view, clear evidence that the general standards and reliability of the services are poor and that there is an increasing incidence of muggings and attacks on public transport. Write an article for a local newspaper, giving examples of your own experiences of local public transport and your views on the aims of the campaign.

Our regional council have been bombarding us with “advice” not to use our cars, especially for commuting purposes. What is their alternative? Local buses and trains. But how reliable a suggestion is this?On the one hand, all buses and trains are inadequate in number, hence barely frequent. The other day I came across a timetable dated 31st May 1996. Even though the number of passengers has doubled since then, the timetable is still the same. Apart from this, existing buses and trains are in a dilapidated state. I suspect even fewer are circulating because they need to be serviced all too often. Moreover, conditions inside are regrettable beyond description: broken handles, torn canvas on seats, filthy window panes and leaking roofs. Only two days ago I was on board the train from Panshurst to Wolverhampton when I felt the rain drizzling over my head.Yet, I believe that as a patient people, immune to the austerity measures by the government, we could put up with all this. I’m afraid I cannot write the same about security, however. Not to put too fine a point on it, our local means of transport are a mugger’s paradise. Pick-pockets are thriving on packed buses or trains, revelling in the absence of the police. I, personally, have fallen victim of larceny while travelling twice this month. People have ceased reporting incidents of theft or even sexual harassment to the authorities, as they have grown tired of the latter’s inefficiency.Should our ivory tower lords discuss with any of us, regular commuters, they will learn a lot more. I feel that the recent campaign has been just another case of mismanaging taxpayers’ money on asinine projects. Is it aimed at the naïve hoi polloi so that the few clever ones can get rid of them and benefit by using their expensive 4x4s in congestion-free streets, I wonder. If they candidly care about pollution and heavy traffic, they should upgrade local public transport in terms of security and reliability first. Additionally, they could encourage people to travel in groups of 2-4 in their cars rather than as single persons. Another good idea would be to plan alternative routes along crowded lanes. But trying to persuade us to use public transport as it is seems to be totally outrageous!