"Bus passengers are not important people."
That is the verdict given to members of Ceredigion Green Party by Mrs Harvey. “My husband and I are very disappointed. We have emailed Elin Jones, the bus company, the council, but we get nothing back. They are complacent. They do whatever they want to do as they don’t care about us.
Harry next to a timetable board at a bus stop
Strong words but truthful. These sentiments were echoed up and down the county when Ceredigion Green Party members travelled on the T5 and T1 services on Wednesday 17 November to place ‘timetables’ on many shelters in order to show the many services which have been lost since the start of the pandemic.
They need to put more money into buses. I really like travelling on the bus as it’s so useful and easy but not with the cuts.” Gaz, also in Aberystwyth, added, “It is so inconvenient for people who work.”
Many passengers on the bus were relating stories of hours spent waiting for a non-existent service. They were all very happy to distribute the ‘timetables’ to destinations along the route and praised us for taking action. In Cardigan we met two ladies who were desperate to share their stories. Julia Deli told us, “I’m a 56 year old woman, have never driven, I rely on the bus to go to work but I’ve lost jobs because of these cuts. I’ve now also lost my NHS dentist because I can’t get there as it involves using both the T1 and the T5 which is just about impossible right now.” Mrs Anne Davies used to have a car until her knees went bad. “Until you stop driving, you don’t realise how difficult it is on the bus. How do they expect people to get to the new health centre (in Cardigan) if they are disabled and don’t drive? And the covid vaccination centre is in the middle of nowhere!”
Ian has complained to the council about the lack of information in the shelters. “The person on the other end of the phone was understanding but then nothing got done. So I phoned again and I haven’t had a response. They seem to think that everybody has a smart phone which is just not the case.” Martin told us that there is, ”Confusion with the bus timetables, they are different on the internet than they are in the shelters.” But then a student from Aberaeron complained about the on-line services too. “On the App it says the buses are still there! And they’re not. It is ridiculous. Missing Sunday buses on the T5 is really annoying. I have to walk one and a half miles along the main road to get to Aberaeron.”
The complaints came in thick and fast. We didn’t get everybody’s name but the message is clear. Passengers want to have the services back as soon as possible and they want them all back, not just the two or three lost due to the shortage of drivers. Until such time, they want accurate information both on-line and at all bus stops. Ceredigion Green Party has taken some photographs to highlight the misinformation that is out there.
These show old timetables in Aberystwyth train station dating back to 2015, a timetable for The Little Blue Bus, which stopped running in October 2015, missing information on the electronic timetables, inexplicable information on another electronic timetable, but most of all, timetables in many shelters that still show buses that are simply not running at the moment.
These are mainly in the smaller settlements but also in places like Aberaeron. Passengers want to know why Ceredigion County Council spends so much money on these electronic displays which face the wrong way while at the same time the Council cannot get the simplest of things right, meaning putting up accurate timetables in all bus stops.
Some passengers wanted to know what the companies are actually doing about recruitment. There is a real fear out there that all involved are becoming complacent and that services may not return to pre-pandemic levels. We cannot let that happen. Ceredigion Green Party will campaign relentlessly to get our services back.
One lady we spoke to told us that she needed to see the GP in Aberaeron. She had caught the 8am bus in for a 9.20 appointment as there is no 9am service. She wasn’t quick enough to catch the 9.50 bus back so had to wait till the 11.50 to go back home. A simple visit to the GP which would have taken a person with a car less than one hour to complete but which took this lady more than four hours, just because she is a bus user in Ceredigion. That is shameful.
With the climate emergency, all the talk is of getting people to use public transport. COP 26 only finished a week ago and already it is hardly making the news. Our planet is not going to stop warming if we stop talking about it. One of the things we must do is make public transport more attractive than private car use. It is incomprehensible that there is so much talk out there and that our council is erecting some new bus shelters, and about time too, but we must get the basic things right or people will not change their habits and switch from private car use to public transport. We demand that our council’s transport department, our Councillors, our Senedd Members and our bus companies fix the problems and fix them soon.