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Bussed up

Stagecoach buses run two popular services which use the Swinford toll bridge (which I have been blogging about for months now) everyday. One of them, the 100, is ‘my’ bus. Today I spoke to a senior person from Stagecoach who told me about the impact of the toll collection on the bridge on their operations. I’ll call him ‘tall bloke in a suit’; he won’t mind. He reckons that his buses make more than 60 crossings of the bridge every day at 20p a time. The bus company pays by account so it doesn’t actually have to stop to pay the toll collector, which I suppose is something. Car drivers are not offered this luxury, as far as I am aware.

The impact of toll collection on the smooth, cost-effective, fuel-efficient running of the buses is massive. They have to pay bus drivers while they inch through the queues of traffic, but that’s nothing compared to the cost of fuel in those huge idling engines, belching out vast clouds of diesel fumes into an environmentally-sensitive riverside area. Tall bloke in a suit told me that they write the time wasted in traffic queues into their timetables to be as realistic as possible to passengers, but when there is an accident on one of the major trans-Oxfordshire routes, or roadworks somewhere nearby, hundreds if not thousands of cars divert to the B4044 over the toll bridge.

This plays havoc with his timetables and annoys passengers – like me – royally. Sadly, this happens all too frequently.

In Oxfordshire County Council’s (OCC) Transport Plan there are plans for a single bus lane to be built in the next five years from the the roundabout on the Eynsham side of the bridge to the toll house. This would give public transport priority over other vehicles going west to east in the morning queues and therefore offer a faster service. This might attract more passengers and get more cars off the road. It would mean fewer huge, idling diesel engines and less choking pollution. All good.

Stagecoach buses need to maintain good working relations with the bridge managers and owners so their buses can continue to use the bridge and provide the public transport services we need, so they cannot publicly support my campaign to scrap the tolls. Tall bloke in a suit was very sympathetic though and said he’d see what he could do to ask the county council to help speed up the building of a bus lane.

I support the building of a bus lane because it encourages more people to use public transport but I can’t help thinking of my poor, frustrated fellow-citizens who have no choice but to use their cars to get where they need to be. There is an elephant on the table here which everyone can see but no one will deal with. A bus lane is one of the many ways to alleviate traffic queues and time wasting for a small number of bridge users; but it doesn’t tackle the heart of the matter. It’s another measure which skirts round it. I wonder if the thousands of pounds of public money (I presume? ) used to built a bus lane wouldn’t benefit more people if it was put towards compulsorily purchasing the bridge and scrapping those damned tolls.

In an ideal world, OCC would compulsorily purchase the bridge immediately, scrap the tolls, take step so we can all get over the bridge steadily and safely and we’d have a bus lane right now. Now wouldn’t that be something?
Help make it happen!

Thank you.

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