Despite the fact that the number of old folks riding the buses for free seems to be exponential and a serious drain on the public purse, I'm only peripherally interested in the finances of the scheme – it's the mysterious disappearance of the buses after hours that really concerns me.
We assume, like so many things in life, that greater minds than ours are involved in the planning and organising of such mundane activities as a bus time-table. Then again, in this age of computer-generated rotas – how difficult can it be?
Take the Sprowston Park and Ride for instance. At peak times a bus leaves the Park and Ride site every 8 minutes. Journey time to the Norwich Bus Station is about 30 minutes. So, how many buses are required to achieve the goal? It must be about 4. At non-peak times the interval goes up to 10 minutes, so you need slightly fewer buses during the day.
Follow me so far?
Now, here comes the intriguing part. When I leave the site at about 18:00 I often see one of the Blue Park and Ride buses leave at the same time – but going in the wrong direction! Instead of turning right into the city, the bus goes left towards Wroxham. It then turns right towards Salhouse. I think I have seen them on the A 47 heading for Yarmouth.
What's going on? Where are they going? Why?
It's been suggested to me that the drivers are taking the buses home so as to get an early start and save on travelling expenses getting to work the next day. I just can't see it. Although it's perfectly possible that the bean-counters who run the bus service don't know this is going on – I doubt that this can be the case.
Why? Where are you going to park a whacking great blue bus? In your driveway?
Perhaps they are going to park somewhere near or in Yarmouth? Again, why?
There can't be more that 5 or 6 buses in total. Often there are three on the site at the same time. Surely when the last bus arrives at night they would just park it on the site with the others. Then, all the buses are there in the morning and ready to go. Why would you want to do anything else?
Aside: some of the controversy about the Park and Ride buses concerns the government's scheme to allow OAP's to ride for free after 09:30. In a recent letter to the editor of the EDP, Gussy Alamein (no I'm not making this up), Marketing and Communications Manager for First East England Buses explains that: . . . the destination on the ticket makes no difference to the revenue received by the bus company. Payments to bus companies are made on the basis of the average fare charged to adult paying passengers multiplied by the number of journeys made by concessionary pass holders.”
Clear? I'm frightened that these people are running the buses. I'm frightened that they are actually running anything. I'm going to find out where the Blue Buses go.
If it kills me.