Monday, 11 May 2009
5 weeks after Bristol's travel shop closed, its sole 'replacement is a single desk in the corner of National Express's office at the Marlborough Street Bus Station, staffed by a harrassed First employee. A difficult job.
It's awkward to reach for most travellers, and lacks both information and capacity to meet demand. For a city with pretensions to provide integrated transport, or to be 'green', it's an embarrassment.
How any newcomer to the city is expected to find their way round is a mystery. The present system is fragmented, trains at Temple Meads and Parkway, country buses at Marlborough Street, city buses scattered all over the place. Ferries (of course) in the floating harbour. And nowhere where residents and visitors can get an overall picture of the city's transport.
For First, this seems a fairly typical commercial decision. Company policy never reflected any ambition to attract more passengers, just to cut the costs and increase the income from those they have. First were providing staff at the Colston Avenue travel shop - now they're not. Job done.
The complacency of Bristol City Council is something else. They too have saved money, but at the expense of throwing away a key public service. When asked about it by me and by Mark Bradshaw at the March council meeting, the responsible Exec member, Jon Rogers, could only say he hoped to provide some leaflets for a stand at the Marlborough Street desk. And yes, there are some leaflets about some buses - but nothing about trains, bikes, or ferries. No maps either.
It's not working, Jon. It was never going to. You want to improve public transport? Information is the key.
Two people who had sussed out how to get to Tyntesfield boarded an X7 Clevedon bus in the Centre today. They showed the driver their travelcards and asked if they were valid for free travel. He said he thought not, and asked what cards they were. They replied that they give them free travel back home in New Zealand.
The driver explained that they'd have to pay, about £13 plus return for the pair of them. Or, for a very little more, they could have day passes. The couple were horrified and decided not to go to Tyntesfield after all!