Monday 30th April 2012
PARK & Ride in north Swindon was closed – as a ‘temporary measure’ – three years ago, adding five or more minutes to everyone’s rush hour travel time. Mondays are the worst, especially when it’s raining. Several motorists risk being fined for using the bus lane. You can understand their frustration, mind, with the long tailback from the Moonrakers roundabout and all that tempting, empty tarmac on the near side.
The bus I’m on, a single-decker, has been full since we left Cricklade. Stencilled lettering declares its capacity as ‘43 seated, 31 standing’. I query the figures.
“You can’t fit more than about a dozen, standing. I won’t allow it,” says Drive. That’s what we (men) call the (male) drivers. It’s a masculinity thing. Chris, the only woman driver, is called Chris. They’re a friendly crew.
“Seven day rider, please,” asks one of the regulars.
“You sure? Can’t guarantee this bus will last that long.”
Increased petrol prices haven’t encouraged car sharing. I wipe condensation from the window with an anorak sleeve, in order to make a random survey.
Of one hundred vehicles heading into town, only six have passengers. Eight buses conveying motorists would free up a mile of highway – except, of course, that seeing such a stretch of open road would have everyone back behind their own wheel, taking advantage of it.
I can’t use the free bus pass before 9.30am.
“Yep. Nobody else would have me.”
The fare is £3.20. Considering the costs of insurance, maintenance, fuel and parking, can you really run a car for as little as 20p a mile?
Booking in advance, I can travel the hundred miles to central London by coach or train for about a tenner; often cheaper as a senior citizen.
Many would argue that the unusual weather of late – winter droughts; heat-wave in March; monsoon-like rain – are more compelling evidence of how thoughtless we’ve become about the welfare of our planet.
Looking through the window of the 51 bus to Swindon, I have to agree with them.