Thursday, November 15, 2007

On The Buses

Blakey from On The BusesFame hungry swine that I am, I have this week managed to get my name inserted into the hallowed pages of the Leamington Courier yet again. Lord knows why they don’t ask me to write the entire ruddy paper for them. Hmm. Probably because I’d demand too much money...

Anyway, the background (for those of you that are interested) is that the local bus company, Stagecoach, have launched a brand spanking new bus service this week. All posh leather seats, fleur-de-lys d├ęcor and gold trim. And hardly any space for parents with prams or pushchairs – a subject, as you know, which is rather close to my heart at the moment.

The end result was that Karen, Ben and Tom were refused entry to three buses on the trot one afternoon this week because the one and only space on each bus (which is technically set aside for wheelchair users rather than prams) was already occupied by a mum with a pushchair. There was nowhere for Tom’s pram to go so it was a case of “sorry luv, you’ll just have to wait for next one...” By the time they eventually got home they were all tired, freezing cold and very very upset. A 20 minute journey had taken the best part of an hour.

Not good enough! What’s the use of Italian leather seats a-plenty if you’re not allowed onto the bus to use the damn things? Right, thought I: no-one treats my wife and kids like that...

And so you can read the gory details below. The letter was sent to The Courier and to Stagecoach themselves:

Re: Your new Goldline Bus service

Whilst I am very impressed with the aesthetics of your new Goldline bus service as unveiled this week – the Italian leather seats, the plush navy and gold interiors – there has been a huge oversight on the part of the bus designers.

If you are a young mum with baby in a pushchair or a pram your chances of boarding a Goldline bus are severely diminished because of the lack of provision for such devices within the bus itself.

My wife has been refused entry to your Goldline buses on three consecutive days this week because the “space for wheelchairs” was already occupied by a traveller with a pram. On the second day that this happened she was refused entry to three buses in a row. This meant my wife – recovering from a caesarean, our 6 year old boy and our 4 week old baby were left waiting in the freezing cold for over 40 minutes despite three buses having called in at the bus stop during this period. By the time they were allowed to board a bus night had fallen and the baby was due a feed. Both he, my boy and my wife were understandably very distressed.

To be fair I’d like to state that I have no complaint against the bus drivers at all. They were all sympathetic but unable to do anything about the situation. In fact one commented that “this had been happening all day”.

Having used the G1 service myself I couldn’t help but notice that the only space for pushchairs is actually designated as being for wheelchair users only. It seems no provision has been made for mums with young children and babies at all. I rang your Leamington office this morning and asked what would happen if someone with a pram was occupying the space when a wheelchair user wished to board the bus. Reassuringly I was told that Stagecoach would not ask ticket holders to leave a bus once they had paid for a place and the wheelchair user would have to wait for the next available bus as my wife had done.

In this age of anti disability discrimination I can’t see such a response being sanguinely accepted by any wheelchair user. And given the great pains your bus designers have gone to in order to make buses more accessible to the disabled such a notion rather contradicts all your efforts to make buses accessible for all.

Are wheelchair users and parents with newborns to fight it out at the bus stops with the victor claiming the one and only bus space allocated to them? This is shoddy, second class treatment of both parents and the physically disabled. It just isn’t good enough.

I appreciate that a solution might be difficult to achieve but nevertheless something needs to be done. There are clearly more mums with young children in the Leamington and Warwick area than there are G1 buses... this problem is clearly not going to go away and needs to be addressed ASAP.

Yours sincerely...

In the words of Blakey from On The Buses: I ‘ate you, Stagecoach, I ‘ate you! Aw-haw-haw-haaaw!

25 comments:

Rol Hirst said...

Good for you.

All that was missing from that letter was the phrase, 'Why, oh why, oh why...'

Oliver said...

The days of Blakey and On the Buses now seem like the glorious era of public transport!

By the way, I like your blog. I also live In Leamington Spa and blog mainly from there. There is plenty to get frustrated about (among the good things).

Trevor Gay said...

Hi - Good story Steve.

I recently had cause to complain to Stagecoach and I have to say they responded very well with an apology. The issue for me was the attitude of one of their drivers when Annie and I got on the bus to go into Coventry. Let’s just say this driver made Basil Fawlty look like Mother Theresa.

Here is the link to the Posting on my Simplicity Blog about the story:

http://simplicityitk.blogspot.com/2007/08/why-why-why.html

Don’t have time to bore you with the whole story but I was happy they accepted my story as the customer and I replied to say I did not want the guy sacked but perhaps a quiet (or not so quiet) word in his ear reminding him the only reason he has a job is 'cos he has paying customers!

Will have to go now as I can hear Olive shouting …. “Arthur! … Arthur! … Are you there Arthur??!!!”

Aaah memories!

Daisy said...

good job steve...it is so hard for women with children full stop...just getting around shops which they overcrowd, trying to walk down the sidewalk (with people stopping in the middle to talk), etc, etc...they should not also have to wait and wait for some bus to arrive which is able to accommodate such a basic need...your wife definately has more patience than i do...as i would have taken the pram and put it on one of the leather seats and rode on the first bus...it is terribly frustrating when you have one child let alone two and are trying to take a bus home...

Steve said...

Hi Rol, I may have a chance at the why, oh why's very soon as the bus driver yesterday spied the pram and didn't even bother to pull in at the bus stop despite having a half empty bus!

Hi Oliver, thanks for dropping by and for the compliment! Would you be the poetry man that Laura (poet Laureate) has been telling me about? I shall hotfoot it over to your blog as soon as I am able!

Hi Trevor, I have to admit that the people I spoke to at Stagecoach were very polite and understanding. I guess their front-of-house customer facing staff have received excellent training! I'll be interested to read their reply to my letter.

Hi Daisy, I admire your determination! Unfortunately our pram is a real monster and I doubt Karen would have been able to lift onto the seat let alone hold it there while the bus careened around town. Thankfully she should be allowed to drive again after next week (traditionally 6 weeks after a caesarian here in the UK) and so it won't be a problem for us anymore... however it's not going to go away for the other parents in town.

Daisy said...

thank you steve...and to think most just think i am a bitch and not determined at all :)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Sounds like PlasticLine to me!

A shabby way to be treated and no mistake.

And to think we are now branded as a country dedicated to the service industry, ha ha!

Steve said...

Hi Laura, or IronPyriteLine might also be an option though it's significantly less catchier... rather like their buses in fact...!

Old Cheeser said...

Well done for writing that letter, Steve. I have to say, you write very eloquently and are very good at getting your point across. I can tell you're an English student! I too am the King (or should that be Queen?) of writing complaint letters...my most recent being a long email to Portuguese airline TAP, after a sh*te flight back to London from Brazil...

It must be a nightmare if you're a Mum with a pushchair - I have often sympathised when I've seen struggling mothers with their siblings in tow trying to get onto some already crammed bus. In London it's a frequent sight.

I have to say I'm quite impressed with Trevor's story about the driver's attitude and getting a response to his complaint. In London if you did that, no-one would give a f*ck. In fact on a couple of occasions I've had trouble with drivers - once when I didn't have a small enough amount of change for a ticket the driver started yelling at me. Another time I was actually on a bicycle stuck in traffic. It was a classic situation where I didn't know if the bus driver next to me was going to pull out first, or let me go before him. The next thing I knew the driver was leaning out of the window shouting "Get out of my way motherf*cker, you stupid f*cking ar*ehole!" or words to that effect. I was so incensed I manoeuvred my bike in front of him so he couldn't move the bus. I demanded the driver give me his name but he wouldn't, instead just sitting there and smirking and saying "Get a f*cking life!" and stuff like that....Anyway eventually people started to get off the bus telling me to move as I was holding up the bus, and I guess I was being kind of selfish, so I cycled off...But I was so angry about his attitude. I wrote a letter to Transport for London and got a typical token reply saying that "We take complaints seriously and make sure all of our staff are properly trained, blah blah blah". Yeah, right.

Ahem. Sorry for highjacking your blog somewhat there. But the point I'm making is that complaining is the right thing to do, even if you don't always get the desired results!

Steve said...

Hijack away all you like, OC, it's good to get these bus related issues out into the open and realize that we all share a pretty common experience! Yours does sound absolutely horrendous... there's obviously a much tougher calibre of bus driver in London than in Leamo... we get the odd grump and sourfaced jobsworth but rarely do we get one who blasphemes like a rap singer! I admire your bravery for stalling his bus with your bike - now that's a risky manoeuvre!

Flaming Nora said...

Ooh, you tell 'em. I agree that you've got to complain, it's important.

Steve said...

It's a prerequisite for modern living in fact!

The Hitch said...

The leamington Courier?
fame indeed.
I used to love "on the buses" as a kid , but to my dying day will never forget seeing "olive" in a porn mag
Mayfair , posing naked with an axe *shudders*

Steve said...

Eugh. Not good. Still better than Reg Varney I suppose....

The Hitch said...

Steve
I think it was "Jack" that got all the "crumpet"
Despite having buck teeth and a face like a smacked arse (+:
Ahhh the 1970's
When ugly men got off with fit young women who were greatful for it.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Steve I've bookmarked you from my Blog of War.

Annie said...

Hi Steve, I'd like to get off the bus if you don't mind for a sec...

Here's a coincidence. I've just joined the Coventry and Leicester Equity branch and got chatting to an actor there called Alan Wales (I was telling him how much I love poetry). Today Alan has forwarded me an email from the very same Oliver who has comented on this blog. Such a small world.

Hi everyone else - Oliver and especially my lovely husband Trevor who is sitting right next to me :-)

Steve said...

I must admit to a fondness for the 70's too, Hitch. The Sweeney. Proper police men. "Put your trousers on - you're nicked!" Best line in a police drama ever.

Cheers Andrew - that's very much appreciated! :-)

Hi Annie, the bloggosphere is a very small place indeed... I must drop by Oliver's blog myself...

The Hitch said...

yes steve
now coppers say
ooooooooo get your trourses off ducky and look at my baton

-eve- said...

It's a good letter! I enjoyed it :-) Very good points too (and you DO have a right, if they waited thrice as long)

TimeWarden said...

I, too, had a disagreement with a bus driver only this week, which I could've done without, after visiting my Mum in hospital who suffered a stroke nine days ago.

Apologies for not commenting sooner, Steve. I can assure you I continue to read all your posts! I watched both "On the Buses" and "The Sweeney" avidly as a teen and still catch Regan and Carter when I can on ITV4. I'm waiting for my favourite episode to come round, "Thou Shalt Not Kill". A decent enough commandment unless faced with obstreperous employees of Stagecoach!

The Sagittarian said...

Oh how I sympathise with Mrs Steve, public transport..how DARE the public try and us it! Mind you, having said that when I was in London I couldn't fault the system it was great (only hiccup was when "someone" tried to blow up a signal box on the Wimbledon line..., presumably some really annoyed traveller tired of trying to get a lift!)
Good on you for being "Angry of Mayfair" tho' - my 12 year old complained to a large company about a product and got a boxful of replacement stuff for her trouble so now she is always trying to find summat to moan about!
My fav old time programme - LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE...(maybe it should be whine?)

Steve said...

TimeWarden - so sorry to hear your mum has had a stroke. Everyone here wishes her well and a speedy recovery. I bet it's been a hell of a week for you.

Hi Amanda, it is good to complain - it stops people getting lax and also does wonders for the complainees self-esteem. We all take things lying down far too often in this day and age and need to stick up for our rights more. These rights disappear when people stop defending them.

Daisy said...

ahhh the 70's...i don't know if i miss them all so much...i remember them and that is enough...i don't think i could do that again, the clothes, the sayings (what's your sign baby), the gold chained necklaces on every single hairy chested man...yeah it is good to remember...not to repeat...

Steve said...

Daisy, that sounds like an average night down the pub to me...