I should like to make some points in relation to the article in question.
l When the County Connect service was introduced we were told it was intended to operate alongside existing timetabled services, not to replace them
l The revised and reduced Tex service was secured close to the tendering deadline in 2011 and the proposal may not have been well-designed
l Some of the losses referred to by Mr Harris may have arisen from the company’s failure to carry out total passenger accounting methods. Other operators evidence numbers through machine logging – to blame older passengers for having a bus pass is to miss the point of the subsidy
Northamptonshire County Council now regards our bus service as ‘adequate’, with no explanation for that judgement.
As mentioned in the article, the booking procedure is cumbersome and time-consuming and there is no guarantee of service. It presents a logistical challenge as a 20-minute trip can be doubled or tripled without warning.
County Connect, as a network, is technically available to passengers across the whole county, irrespective of existing levels of public transport availability.
Rather than spread the service so thinly, Northamptonshire County Council should arrange for County Connect to set aside dedicated services for those areas which lack alternative provision. It seems Northamptonshire County Council expects us to be grateful for anything.
It is interesting to note that Oxfordshire County Council has said it is open to the idea of providing funding for a service to replace Tex.
Perhaps Northamptonshire County Council would like to transfer a portion of our community charge payments to Oxfordshire County Council for this purpose.
I travel frequently on County Connect, but perhaps it would be enlightening for the many who don’t to show what is entailed.
Disbelief is the invariable reaction when the procedure is explained.
Initially, register and get a number. This is to be quoted each time a booking is made along with one’s name, the day, time and destination required plus the number of people travelling. If returning, these requirements too.
When planning to book there are other steps to follow – press number one if waiting for a bus, two to cancel, three to book for today, four a week today only, five all other.
The booking staff are invariably busy, so say we will call you back in 30 minutes but this may be longer at peak times. Waiting to be called back prevents activities away from the phone and can be stressful.
Once the response is received, given memory lapses it is important to write down the arrangements directly the receiver is replaced.
Drivers are given schedules at the outset of each day detailing passenger pick-ups and routes.
However, calls may be made to the driver whilst en route which may incur changes. Consequently, they may arrive late. Clearly this impacts on driver (and passenger) stress levels.
Unsurprisingly, driver turnout is high despite unemployment prospect.
Nevertheless many are grateful for the provision of a bus and fearful of voicing criticism. ‘Desperate’ adequately describes our situation, but ‘grateful’?
In the 21st Century why shouldn’t we have a bus scheduled to run as a matter of course because provision necessary to daily life is lacking where we live.
But if Mr Tex is to be perceived, it’s a poison chalice, so thanks for that Graham.
More letters in this week’s Banbury Guardian.