Stagecoach Attitude

Dear Editor,

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.

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Fat Cat Office Wallers

In reply to council leaders statement to consult local people on the size of next years council tax bill:

Dear E&E,

Brian Greenslade and his underworked/overpaid pen pushing office wallers will no doubt charge what they believe they can get away with come February 19th, irrespective of who they do or don't consult with.

No doubt all the old chestnuts will come out, especially regarding subsidised bus travel and how the nasty pensioners and disabled people are bleeding the younger and able bodied people dry.

Perhaps if they were to spend less money on ridiculous things such as policing the smoking ban, and those who might accidentally drop a cigarette butt in the street we could save enough to cover the Stagecoach bill.

Incidentally, could he perhaps tell us which local authorities say that they are getting a good deal from central government? I'm waiting with baited breath for his undoubtedly hasty response.

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Bus service lets Exeter down

Dear Editor,

Being a "frequent flyer" to and from Exeter International Airport, I have become increasingly ashamed of the poor bus service afforded to visitors new to the City of Exeter, and would like to voice my concerns through your Points Of View page.

On leaving the arrivals hall at Exeter Airport, visitors who wish to travel into the city centre, or onward for connections to Exeter St Davids train station can easily spot the bus stop for this service. However, despite the rather grandiose sign which advertises a "shuttle/transfer" service (which in itself can easily be interpreted as a dedicated and complimentary service), this service is a complete embarrassment to the City. Aside from anything else, the bus stop itself is situated in an area where no vehicles except the emergency services can access, due to security restrictions.

On my return from Paris yesterday, I noticed a lot of people waiting for the bus into Exeter, and many were voicing disappointment with the frequency of the service (typically every hour). The bus timetables are extremely confusing, and the only "regular" weekday service is the 56A, which in fact is just another country service to and from Exmouth. This service bizarrely also services the entire Met Office workforce who like to travel by bus and so help the environment! Not that I have every seen anyone board at the Met Office on this strange and frankly unnecessary detour. Sundays are catered for by the 379 Sidmouth and Honiton service, which again run every hour (if you are lucky).

One might have assumed that in line with other cities such as Bristol, the "shuttle service" might run every 20 minutes and provide passengers with somewhere to put their luggage; not so in Exeter. The bus we all eventually boarded yesterday arrived 30 minutes late due to a road closure, and was already quite full. The only place for passengers to put their luggage, was a on the floor, but of course the floor space was already taken up with passengers, so it was very uncomfortable for all concerned.

As if it were not bad enough to be waiting for 90 minutes for a bus that was overcrowded, the bus also had it's heating system turned on, on what was already a very warm day! This has happened quite a lot on Stagecoach services recently, but the bus drivers simply say that they can't do anything about it, as it's a problem beyond their control. Maybe this is where Stagecoach are losing money, rather than their lame claims of losing it because of "concessionary fares", but I digress….

If Exeter wants to impress it's visitors, and Exeter Airport continues to press for expansion, perhaps the council should step in and offer visitors a service commensurate with the historic and cultural delights that they continually seek to promote.

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Stagecoach Lies Again

Stagecoach say that free travel for pensioners is costing them money (Letters 11th July 2008).

This is patently untrue, and I challenge stagecoach supremo's Anne Gloag and Brian Souter to prove it to be the case. As pensioners will be aware, Stagecoach charges single fares for all "free" fares provided to those entitled to free travel; return fares, which are often not much more than a single are not permitted.

I know from your letters column that I am not the only one in Exeter who feels that the service they provide (much of which is of course funded by Council Tax payers by way of subsidy on their "unprofitable" routes) is absolutely shocking and overpriced. So, stand up Stagecoach and give us the facts about how much money you are losing as a result of the free travel scheme. Maybe when the truth is revealed many Stagecoach drivers will stop treating those using a free travel pass as lepers and second class citizens, as is sadly often the case at the moment.

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