The Secret Life of Buses

In a social sense, I consider myself fortunate. The Lovely One and myself have a core of close friends that are precious and fiercely loyal. They close together in times of crisis & tragedy. They behave the way communities used to. Like glue, we stick together.

I’m also incredibly fortunate in that in the nearly 6 years – is it REALLY? – that I’ve been wittering (generally) about beer and pubs, I’ve made some incredibly lovely friends and acquaintances. This accelerated with the adventure that was The  ISBF and a band of brothers and sisters came together that now regularly plans trips to further flung beery destinations (next up North Riding Brewpub on 9th Feb).

They are Good People. Lovely in fact.

The thing is, that an awful lot of this would not have been possible without reliable public transport. And where I live, that means buses.

In particular, First Buses Manchester.

My social life totally relies on the bus. I’m approximately 1 1/2 miles from the nearest regular train service (my local station, Farnworth, being closer, yet with virtually no evening service) and the return journey – without a bus – involves a 1 1/2 mile walk. Uphill. In the cold.

The bus service is – therefore – essential to my social life.

I work 20 miles from home at Manchester Airport. I found the constant commuting by car to be soul destroying. Getting stuck on the M60 Barton flyover at 4pm was like Groundhog Day. With added sewage stench.

So I explored the possibility of commuting via public transport. And purchased a System One County Card monthly. £113. That can take me all over Greater Manchester on the train network.

And never looked back.

OK. I’m out – generally at 5:45am. Yes, there ARE 2 5:45s. You lot are mostly asleep no doubt. This journey involves a bus to Piccadilly, Metro to Piccadilly Train station, then a train to The Airport. And I love it. In that 1 1/2 hours I have read more books, listened to more tunes than I can count. I’ve even learned to love Spotify.

On the return journey, it’s mostly train to Bolton. On those 40 minute journeys were written most of the ISBF Web posts.

The train gets in to the new Interchange with a footbridge across to the new bus station. It’s a lovely facility. Let down by the bus services that it’s supposed to facilitate. In short, unreliable. From day one. I’ve also lost count of the number of tweets to the First Buses Manchester account that I’ve sent.

The theme (generally) being “If you can’t keep to a timetable, create one that you can”.

When I’m on my own, it irritates. Personally, I can deal with that. But twice in the last week, I’ve waited for an evening bus with The Lovely One. Only for a service not to appear. Apparently cancelled. With no possibility of notice, given the lack of bus stop information service.

An hour. Stood in the cold. This shouldn’t happen.

This – the 37 from Manchester to Bolton – is a half hourly service in the evenings. Or at least it SHOULD be. (On the advice of The Daughter Thing, one downloaded the UK Bus Checker app – live tracks some services….less wasted – cold – waiting around)

The timetable is seared into my memory. Too many times have I rush-stumbled from The Brink, crossed Bridge Street and caught the 11:44 last bus. On some occasions falling asleep and waking in Bolton.

Luckily, there’s a taxi rank….

Last night, The Lovely One and I ventured into Mancunia to see some dear beer friends, Beer Jesus and The Cocktail Twins (I’ve registered that band name). A lovely evening. Utterly spoiled by a cancelled bus service. The 22:40. A bus that simply failed to show. We were stood waiting – again – in the cold.

It simply isn’t good enough

I don’t work for the bus company. I have no appreciation of what their issues may be. But something needs to change.

Cities like Manchester function in the evenings, stay alive socially (especially this month), because of public transport. Without a reliable service, people will stop travelling to socialise.

If this service gets any worse, that “option” will become more viable.

Back soon – J