Thursday, 6 September 2018

Money to burn

What's the best way to squander £90 million? Simple - relaunch your local bus service with flashy new buses that aren't needed and aren't any quicker than the old buses.

To a fanfare of hype and gushing soundbites, along with free doughnuts, our local number 4 bus route in East Belfast was relaunched this week with purple bendy buses, pre-paid journeys and  drivers who no longer interact with the passengers.

I sampled the new bus earlier in the week and was totally underwhelmed. When I tried to validate my bus pass, the machine said it was faulty. Not a problem though as I could board the bus and travel to my destination without meeting any ticket inspectors (apparently there are very few).

Unlike the old buses, all the seats were taken so like many other passengers I had to stand for the whole journey to the city centre - which at around 15 minutes was no shorter than previously. The bus lanes now operate all day but that didn't make the bus any quicker.

So £90 million was spent on buses that offer no visible improvement on the old buses, and will be a magnet for fare dodgers who can hop on and hop off tourist-style. It will be fun to see how many journeys I can make without seeing a ticket inspector (now grandly renamed as Revenue Protection Officers).

The bendy buses are also less flexible than the old double-deckers. On tight corners they have to swing right into the middle of the road to clear the kerb. And there are plenty of tight corners in the city centre.

Just think what we could have done with £90 million if it hadn't been squandered on this pointless exercise. In particular it could have drastically reduced hospital waiting lists, which are shockingly huge (I had to wait 18 months for a routine prostate operation).

Spending scandals? I'm sure there'll be another one along in a minute....

20 comments:

Liz Hinds said...

Been there, done that, now abandoned as a bad idea! Such a waste. Maybe you have our old purple bendy buses?

nick said...

Thanks, Liz, that's very interesting. I see that Swansea ditched its identical £10 million purple bendy buses after six years because they were too expensive to run and not fuel-efficient (though maybe the Belfast ones are an improved version?). We don't have your old bendy buses, these are brand-new ones built by Van Hool.

Wisewebwoman said...

Insanity. You can see these non-bustakers in their (bendy?) towers making these inefficient and extravagant decisions for the peasants. And call me a cynic but kickbacks??

XO
WWW

nick said...

www: Goodness knows why they thought these new buses would be any better than the old ones. The problem isn't the buses but what holds them up - cars and cyclists in bus lanes, lots of people getting on or off, buses stopping at every bus stop etc.

I think kickbacks and protection money are still pretty common in Northern Ireland, though of course nobody will say anything publicly.

Rummuser said...

It sounds very much like a news item that could be written about any city in India.

Secret Agent Woman said...

That's too bad. The thing here is hybrid buses, which is to the good, I think.

Bijoux said...

Well, I suppose eventually it costs more to fix the old buses than buy new? I just wish we had a better transportation system here for the outer ring suburbs.

nick said...

Ramana: Oh dear, is the general level of political incompetence that bad?

Agent: The new buses are hybrids. The old buses are diesel, but as far as I know they still had plenty of mileage left in them.

nick said...

Bijoux: Nobody ever suggested the old buses were worn out. They were very reliable and hardly ever broke down.

Danielle L Zecher said...

Government agencies are great at wasting money, aren't they? They're constantly doing stupid, but expensive, projects here, meanwhile 911 centers and fire departments are understaffed and underpaid.

nick said...

Danielle: Indeed, same situation here - plenty of money for pointless schemes like this one, but understaffed hospitals, schools, fire stations and police units.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Oh, then was it to curb pollution?

CheerfulMonk said...

That's pretty much how things work. We have similar things here.

Joared said...

Any bus changes I've been aware of here involved vehicles that were more fuel efficient and emitted less pollution. That's what you should have gotten at the very least, I'd think.

When I read about the hospital wait for surgery you describe is when I get really concerned about having a single payer government run health care system here -- if they don't insure such delays won't occur. Some of what I read about those systems in Europe and Canada are stories of those kind of delays. I understand they have lists of what are designated as "optional" surgery and those are where the delays mostly occur. The concern would be the criteria and who is determined must wait -- or is it just everybody with that diagnosis? Also, the tendency to use age likely would enter into the equation and I think unofficial ageism might well be a factor to guard against -- at least with some, even if not openly.

For example, hip or knee surgery are a couple diagnoses I recall a Canadian wrote about being delayed. Meanwhile, the person waiting was gradually getting worse and worse -- ended up with serious permanent functional issues that wouldn't have been present but for the wear and tear because of the long wait.

nick said...

Agent: That was barely mentioned. The main aim seemed to be to speed up the buses (not much evidence of that so far).

Jean: I'm sure this sort of mindless spending is practised by politicians the world over.

nick said...

Joared: The new buses are hybrids, which are meant to be more fuel efficient, but I haven't seen any statistics comparing their fuel usage to the old buses.

The NHS used to be much more efficient, but a combination of persistent underfunding by governments, a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses (many moving to other countries with better pay and conditions), and massive debts due to botched public-private financing schemes, has caused the current crisis.

Polly said...

Unfortunately wasting tax payers money is all too common, politicians and councillors get a nice little payback and pat each other on the back. My grandson's school has had new doors fitted at a cost of thousands of pounds, whilst pupils are told they will have to buy their own books, and the science and sports facilities could do with new equipment.

nick said...

Polly: That sounds like a pretty topsy-turvy idea of priorities. But the real problem of course is that the government is underfunding schools and they are having to economise on what we would regard as basic necessities - like textbooks and sports equipment.

Liz Hinds said...

You can only hope the design has improved, Nick. Our city centre was in a state of chaos for months as they changed roads to prepare for the new buses. It's now in chaos again because people kept getting run over when the roads changed to one way so there was an outcry. I look every way and then again at least twice before crossing any road these days.

nick said...

Liz: There weren't any major road works for our new buses, only new bus shelters and payment machines. Hopefully nobody will get run over!