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Rail-roaded

Top of the UK news this morning is the award of the west coast rail franchise to First Group, for a period of fourteen years. Naturally, the present holders, Virgin, and their partner, the Scottish-owned Stagecoach group, are less than pleased. If our experience in East Lothian is anything to go by, Joe Public shouldn’t be too pleased either.

There was a day when trains and buses were viewed as public services. Not by First Group they ain’t; they are profit centres, pure and simple. For example:

Those of us who live in the five coastal communities of East Lothian, from Longniddry to North Berwick are forced to rely on First Group for our bus links to Edinburgh. For years, the service has run every half-hour. One of those buses ran through the busy town of Musselburgh, the other by-passed it. That was just about an adequate service, or maybe not, if you happened to live in the coastal communities, worked in Musselburgh and didn’t have a car. If you are one of the five or six people who fall into that category, you can be happy today, because as a result of a recent ‘restructuring’ of its East Lothian services, First Group has decided that all buses on what is now called the X24 service will now be routed through the town. The problem for everybody else is that half of them will go no further. X24 begins at North Berwick (Tesco), and those that do not proceed to Edinburgh will now terminate at Musselburgh (Tesco), a remarkable coincidence on which I will not comment, other than to note that the hourly bus that stopped at ASDA, on the outskirts of the capital,  will no longer do so as a result of the changes.

The net result is that North Berwick, Dirleton, Gullane, Aberlady, and Longniddry now have to make do with one direct bus to the capital city every hour. As an added complication, those buses collect and drop off at every community beyond Longniddry; not a problem when travelling to Edinburgh, but a big one, potentially on the return journey.

So there you have it; First Group in action. An outfit which thinks nothing of cutting rural provision by fifty per cent, has been entrusted with the Euston – Glasgow rail service, on the basis of a bid which Virgin (who have experience of the franchise) and others insist can only be sustained by cuts in staffing and services. I find myself wondering whether the Holyrood government was consulted over this decision by its Westminster counterpart, because, last time I looked, everything on the route from just north of Carlisle happens to be in Scotland. If it wasn’t, why not?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Favoriteheckler
    August 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

    It’s strange how the spokesman allways says that increases in fares are “to improve services”and the services continue to decline.

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