|Cango can't stop
26 Jun 2004
On March 2nd, I got a letter from Hampshire County Council “We are writing to advise you of new Department of Transport legislation that affects our Cango bus services. The new legislation means that all journeys now must be booked, unless you are travelling from a timed stop to another timed stop.”
I pottered down to our bus shelter to check its status. It had no green flag – so it was not a timed stop. Inside, a warning notice had been pinned up to warn the putative bus passenger “New legislation requires the passenger travelling on Cango to book their journeys.”
But why should I have to book my place, if the bus was going through the village anyway? What had happened to Prescott’s campaign to get us out of our cars?
I wrote to my successor but three at the Department of Transport to ask why he was placing additional hurdles in the path of the nation’s bus passengers. My protest was swept aside in the reply “The new regulations that came into force on Feb 23rd offer an unparalleled degree of flexibility to allow operators to run bus services that are completely demand-responsive” This sat uneasily with the Hampshire letter, placing a different interpretation on what had happened.
The Minister then shot himself in the foot, with a sentence his spin-doctor had failed to erase. “I agree that the booking requirement is an inflexibility..”
The reason he gave for this inflexibility is so obscure it needs to be quoted in full. “Without this provision, a taxi operator could surrender their taxi licence, obtain a bus operator’s licence and continue to provide a taxi service under the guise of a flexible bus, eg a vehicle operating from a stop outside an airport or railway station taking passengers to any destination they specify. I should clarify that any such arrangements would not only be in breach of the primary legislation on registering bus services, but also seriously undermine both the taxi and bus licensing systems, making enforcement of both regimes extremely difficult.” From these portentous, if obscure arguments, flowed the requirement for villagers in Penton to prebook their place on the bus.
I persisted, and broke through on another front. Hampshire County Council wrote on May 10th “One of our officers has visited the office of the Traffic Commissioner in Bristol and has negotiated a more flexible approach to the new flexible routing legislation.” “To enable you to use the Cango services to get to the railway station, we will reinstate Penton Mewsey as a timed stop on the C1 service which will mean you do not have to pre-book the journey.”
With this moral victory under my belt, I would clearly have to use the service. But in the hundred yards between my front door and the bus stop, I was passed three times by kindly carbound neighbours heading for the station, who wound down the window and offered me a lift. I told them I wanted to catch the bus and they looked at me in disbelief.
I waited at the bus stop, turning down yet more offers.
I got on to the bus and asked the driver if it went to the station. “I’ll take you to the station if I you want” was the reply, demonstrating the flexibility heralded in the Ministerial letter.
I got there in good time for the train, feeling rosy and enthused about public transport. The train arrived with short formation; and I had to stand all the way to Waterloo.