Stop Breaking Down

Stagecoach bus services are an overpriced, despicable pile of crap.

Oxford to Cambridge

Our local bus services were withdrawn years ago and we are dependent on the “express” between Oxford and Cambridge (90 miles in 3hrs 45mins – average speed 24 mph) to get us from our village into the nearest town, a distance of 8 miles. In theory, it’s a good service – nominally every 30 minutes; in practice, it’s extremely unreliable. That’s not Stagecoach’s fault: there are just too many pinch points on the route. The buses don’t stand a snowball in hell’s chance sticking to the timetable. The drivers do their best.

x5 bus
Nice bus – when it works!

The buses, about 5 years old, have leather seats, air conditioning and free wifi. But they keep breaking down – see below. So we often get ancient buses or a town double-decker replacing the advertised bus. Not so luxurious!

Can’t Take the Heat

On 19th April, the freak 29° day, I had a hospital appointment and arranged to get the local bus into town to meet my wife, a distance of about half a mile. The service is timetabled for every 15 minutes. We waited 50 mins and were “rescued” by another local bus route from a nearby village. One of the regular users said they were operating the route that day with only one bus. It turns out that many, if not most, of the buses had broken down in the heat and they were driving buses from Eastbourne (140 miles away) for replacements. Not exactly professional.

Rip Off and Contempt

Yesterday, my wife got my car serviced and needed to buy a return ticket from town and back: cost £8.65 return: she’s too young to get a free bus pass! (I never travel at a time I have to pay!) I was shocked at the expense. By contrast, I paid £8.50 return this morning to travel 20 miles to the next big town and back by train (travel time 18 mins out, 13 mins back). My bus home was waiting to go at the advertised time at the bus station. But, after getting everyone on board, they said it wasn’t working and, after a 10-15 minute delay, we were all decanted onto a local bus replacement. Regular passengers said it had happened 2 or 3 times in the past week. I really am shocked that Stagecoach charges two and a half times per mile as our overpriced railways for a vastly inferior service.

The poor service and grotesquely high fares show an utter contempt for Stagecoach’s Passengers (mostly old gits like me with free passes). [Note the P word, not the C word.] Bus privatisation outside London (where it is highly regulated by the Mayor’s Office) is an utter disaster, as I now know from personal experience.

Stop Breaking Down

By chance and coincidence, I have had inside information from 3 current and one former bus driver over the past couple of years. The basic problem is that Stagecoach skimps on routine, preventative maintenance. (The former employee said he left because Stagecoach, as an employer, was “crap”.) And yet I generally find the drivers friendly and they do a thankless job, so don’t blame them! Brian Souter, CEO of Stagecoach is a very rich man. Instead of paying himself (and the Scottish National Party) so much money, he should spare a few quid keeping his buses properly maintained! Someone needs to teach him the meaning of public service – or simply renationalise the buses as well as the railways.

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