Having been a past correspondent to the Echo on the issue of Stagecoach buses, their drivers and the appalling service they provide for the citizens and visitors to Exeter, I have come up with an idea which they might like to consider.
I note from your letters column, and more so through comments left on thisisexeter.co.uk, that many bus users have concerns regarding the manner in which they are treated by certain drivers. Now, please don't get me wrong here, because many of their drivers are of a well mannered and easy going disposition, which cannot be easy given some of the things they have to put up with. However, there are a percentage of drivers who can be sullen, ill mannered and downright abusive, and it is because of them that I am making my proposal to introduce clearly visible identification badges, which could be attached to the top of the ticket vending machines.
Prior to Stagecoach securing the monopoly from Devon General in 1995, all drivers had to be clearly identified by easily visible badges, and I'm sure that the aforementioned salt of the earth type driver would not have a problem with this being reintroduced. I'm sure that Stagecoach drivers do indeed carry identification, but I have to say that if this is the case then I for one have not seen any evidence.
When travelling on their buses we are (quite rightly) reminded that Stagecoach will not tolerate abuse of any kind to their staff, and that they will seek to prosecute such offenders. However, this should surely work both ways don't you think? I have in the past week witnessed abusive behaviour from drivers, especially toward those who travel using concessionary passes. I have it on good authority that it is common knowledge within the Stagecoach organisation that many employees, especially drivers, consider such pass holders to be to blame for high fares and overcrowding. This view is confirmed by comments left on your website by drivers, although I have no way of telling whether they are actual employees or not. I have also heard slang names given to these people, but this is no place for profanity so I'll pass on that one.
Of course it would be somewhat abusive of me to suggest that had these people tried harder at school then they might not have to be ferrying pensioners and the like around to pay the bills, so perhaps I deserve such treatment. I do not however, find it amusing to see the elderly and those who are least able to defend themselves bullied by drivers with a chip on their shoulder.
So, what about it Stagecoach? The next time I see a little old lady falling around the bus because the driver has lurched away from the bus stop before she has had time to find a seat, will I be able to ring you up and report him using his badge number? Okay, I hear you say, we don't need such identification because all you have to do is ring us up and tell us which route and timetabled service you were travelling on. Well, that isn't going to work either is it because I have yet to find a service which runs to time during peak periods, and as all regular bus travellers know there are often no buses for up to an hour and then three come at the same time!
To the drivers who accept their job for what it is, and make it a pleasure travelling with them, I say thank you. To the others who's dubious people skills have been highlighted above, I say if you don't like the job, don't do it. To Stagecoach, I can only say either get your house in order or at least let the travelling public do it for you.