Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Robin Hood and Kangaroo travel cards fall short

All the maps below can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The first map is the official map for the new all-in-one Robin Hood travelcard issued by Nottingham City Council. Its launch has been surrounded by hyperbole. It does not include YourBus, nor train services, and still costs far more than it should because, as the Council says, the amount card users pay is determined by the participating companies.

In other words they set a rate which encourages bus and tram users to stay loyal to one company because they can't afford the Robin Hood premium. At the moment the card is not more than a day-rate card.

I have long been perplexed by how arbitrary the travelcard boundary points are. They are not related to journey times or miles, which leads me to suspect that they are commercial — a question I will be asking the Robin Hood Network once this post has gone live.

The 'official' map is a classic example of how geography can be distorted. The map above, which I have created with the help of, also uses a circle which passes through Chilwell Retail Park. My map does not pass through another travel card boundary point. In terms of distance, Chilwell Retail Park appears to be the furthest away from Nottingham City Centre.

My third map takes the official map's idea of a circle marking boundary points and place Ruddington Business (and Country) Park on the bottom of the circle. It takes 41 minutes to reach this point on a Nottingham City Transport route 10 bus from the City Centre. Chilwell Retail Park is 35 minutes away from the City Centre.

If one 41 minute bus journey can be included in the travelcard scheme, why not all journeys within 41 minutes? Afterall, it cannot cost any more. The 'map' also shows (blue dots) towns within 15 minutes of the present 41 minute limit and lots of places within the 41 minutes excluded from being part of the travelcard scheme.

Bus users in Stapleford have good reason to feel aggrieved at their exclusion because Stapleford is just 26 minutes from the City Centre by bus, whereas Chilwell Retail Park is 35 minutes away. In other words, Stapleford is a whole 9 minutes closer, so why are they excluded? I suspect that this decision has not been been made by Nottingham City Council, but one (or more) of their public transport 'partners'. 

We will know more if they answer my question. Until then I leave you with my evidence that whatever the City Council and their 'partners' say, bus users in Greater Nottingham are being duped.

The situation is not helped by the fact that Nottingham City Council is also between a rock and a hard place. It wants to get shoppers and workers into the city council area, but the same buses and the tram can take people out of the city to other shopping centres like Arnold, Beeston and West Bridgford (but not Eastwood, Ilkeston, Long Eaton or Stapleford). Hucknall can be reached by tram, but not on a bus, even though both run to the town. How crazy is that?

Nottinghamshire County Council also has responsibility for bus services and is, understandably, more interested in helping people reach local centres rather than Nottingham. There is a conflict here which will not be resolved until we have some kind of unified public transport authority for the Derby-Nottingham conurbation — something I have long argued for and will happen if the proposed combined authority is created.

In the December 2015 issue of Buses magazine, Phil Stockley, who works for Trent-Barton, wrote a column, albeit in a personal capacity, headed 'People, not systems' which included references to public transport in and around Nottingham transport, with a photograph of the Beeston Interchange. He is a great champion of letting the market be. He believes in competition and choice.

If you take this view to its logical conclusion, then you withdraw all subsidies, concessions and you don't spent a penny on public transport infrastructure. The market manages itself, but I guess that Mr Stockley is a typical free marketeer in that he wants public investment to help his company make money.

I have no problem with public money going into public transport. I just want there to be public benefits too in terms of fares, concessions, good quality buses and frequent services across the whole conurbation, including its rural hinterlands, and in fairness to Trent-Barton they are a good bus company, but they will leave communities without buses if there are no profits to be made, witness the future of the 18 serving Beeston Rylands, which hangs in the balance.

My response is 'look at my maps'. They show how arbitrary the system is, governed not by community needs, but profits and grand schemes which do little for bus users. 

It is a subject I have been writing about for years and will go to my grave arguing for better public transport everywhere and not just outside my front door!

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