Degrees of Broken


Richmond (Local Bus)

Someone once explained Trust to me.

“It’s not”, they said, “absolute, but rather relative.”

I obviously looked blank because they felt the need to elaborate.

“Look, you know Rob. I’d trust him with my life, but I wouldn’t let him hold my fags.” (* Names changed to protect the guilty.)

On the first of my trips today I got to thinking about broken buses and how not only is there a scale of faults, but also how different faults affect people differently. If the engine on a bus is broken then this is clearly terminal preventing anyone from travelling, whereas if the ramp is faulty, which is the problem most common to me, then wheelchair and scooter users are hosed but everyone else is unaffected. Broken, as I said, is relative.

The bus into Richmond was shared with a buggy, as it so often is. The driver played the automated announcement, I assume, as the bus pulled up and the Mum moved her buggy so I could board. Once I was sorted she slipped the buggy into the space behind me. I know many people have problemsĀ  with uncooperative mothers, but, touch wood, I seem to be very lucky.

The thing I did notice was that the IBus display wasn’t working, although the audio announcements were fine. For me this failure didn’t matter, but if I was new to the area it could have really ruined my day. I’m told that these systems are checked automatically over night. This means it’s possible to identify and fix failed systems easily and quickly. I hope that’s true.

The fault on the return trip was even smaller, but had a bigger impact. The journey itself was fine, and again I shared the wheelchair space with a buggy. The problem was pressing the blue, wheelchair request stop button. I didn’t hear it buzz, but there was a lot of background noise so I figured the problem was mine. It turns out I was wrong. I realised this after the driver closed the doors after letting the other passengers off and, rather than deploying the ramp, pulled off down the road. This left me pressing any button I could find for the next stop and my travelling companion going to the driver to ask for the ramp. He was apologetic, but it meant I missed my stop, and could have been stuck on the bus much further if I’d been alone.

It’s not straightforward. There’s much that can go wrong with buses, trains and trams. Each fault is going to have an effect, how much will depend on the fault and the person. What’s clear to me is that the transport companies really need to put the effort into fixing and preventing problems. We need to be able to trust them with our fags too.

About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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