Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 7 January 2009

All Aboard the Ghost Bus

Hands up everyone who has ever complained about public transport being late, overcrowded and expensive.

If that includes you, you might just like to take a trip from London's Ealing Broadway to Wandsworth next Tuesday. For reasons best known to themselves, the Department of Tranport (or rather taxpayers) are funding a 50-seater executive coach (at around £500 a time) to run a return journey once a week. The coach is immaculately clean and invariably punctual - because it never carries any passengers.

Nominally a bus replacement for a section of the Birmingham-Brighton crosscountry route which was 'suspended' on 14th December, the service is not listed on any timetable and station staff at Ealing Broadway are unaware of its existence. Every week, the driver makes the 70-minute journey, waits for two and a quarter hours, then drives his empty coach back again. When the 50-seater coach is unavailable, it is replaced by a 100-seater bus.

Unfortunately for the DT, plucky Times correspondent Ben Webster actually managed to board the bus this week (fare £5.10) and disclosed that this surreal state of affairs covers a situation where a service is officially still running but the PTB want to close it down; the lack of passengers means that in future, the DT can subsequently claim there was no demand for the service and permanently remove it.

Meanwhile, the ghost bus continues to haunt the roads of west London.

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