Sunday, 14 October 2012

Buses – how do we make them easier to use.

Last weekend I was in Maidstone and went to take the bus home. I was expecting a No. 7 bus to Tonbridge at 12.38pm with a forty minute journey to Tonbridge. At this point the bus was due in just over 8 minutes so I crossed the busy main road to a corner shop to buy a snack, believing I had plenty of time.

As I came out of the shop I saw a bus just leaving the bus stop. After crossing the road (viewing the departing back end of the bus) I asked one of the passengers who had just alighted what the number of the bus was. When she said No.7  I was distraught. No. 7 buses between Maidstone and Tonbridge are only two an hour. I believed I had just missed my bus and would now have to wait half an hour for another bus to Tonbridge and a further forty minutes for my lunch – not a happy prospect.

Furious at the dastardly bus driver for leaving so early I sat at the bus stop and ate my snack. Imagine my surprise when, quarter of an hour later, the No. 7 bus (delayed by about five minutes) turned up at the stop. Had I taken my snack to the nearby park instead of staying at the bus stop I would have missed the bus and 
could have had to wait until 1pm for the next bus to Tonbridge.

My distress at believing I had missed my bus could easily have been avoided by the provision of Real Time Indicators (RTI) at the bus stop to let me know that my No. 7 would, in fact, be along soon. RTI are in operation in Oxford and Brighton to my certain knowledge. The bus stop indicators in Tunbridge Wells and at Kings Hill are not Real Time – they are simply a mechanical repetition of the timetable. Hence the buses which suddenly disappear into thin air. 

Tunbridge Line Commuters has long lobbied for Real Time Indicators in Tonbridge. When will we drag our Kent bus services into the 21st century and provide this kind of service? So come on councils, wake up and demand this minimal service for bus passengers. How else are we going to encourage people to use buses instead of the excessive car use which is the norm in West Kent?

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