I'm just back from a short holiday in Scotland, during which we rented a campervan (although apparently they are "motorhomes" nowadays). I may write a piece about the relative virtues of vans and boats later, but one of the highlights of the holiday for me (if not for Hilary) was coming across one of these:
Stagecoach service 73, from Dundee to Carnoustie and Arbroath must surely be the last UK bus service, apart from the "heritage Routemasters" on service 15 in London, to employ conductors!
There's no warning. The only indication that there is anything different about the 73 is that when you go to pay the driver (English bus passes not valid abroad of course) he looks at you a little oddly and you realise he has no ticket machine!
The conductor's job has changed a little since I last did it in the 1970s. Most passengers now have some form of pass or multi-journey ticket to be checked or scanned and comparatively little cash is taken, although I was pleased to see that the individual in the photo above did have a traditional leather cash bag over his right shoulder.
I was a little disappointed, although not really surprised, to see that the equally traditional cries of "hold tight, please" and "any more fares" have now disappeared, with none of the three conductors we encountered using them, whilst passengers have got used to the idea that they need to ring the bell to stop the bus, which used to be the conductor's job. Neither does the conductor need to ring the bell to start it away from a stop as modern bus drivers are used to checking themselves that everyone that wants to alight or board has done so and that it is safe to pull away.
The 73 is a busy route and runs every 10 minutes. The presence of the conductors means that buses spend much less time stationary at stops so presumably the reduced running time (and presumably a lower rate of pay for the driver) pay for the extra cost of employing them. It's also an extra guard against a competitor moving in on the service, as to be really competitive they too would have to find and employ a second person on each bus.
Compensation Update: A Victory and a Defeat!
Almost six months after my train from Carnforth to Lancaster was cancelled and three months after Northern Rail tried to fob me off with a cheque for 55p when I was entitled to a free single ticket to anywhere on their network and following two referrals to watchdog Transport Focus, I have now received an apology from Northern and a free ticket - which by way of further apology for the way the matter has been handled they have upgraded to a free RETURN.
On the other hand, I have had to admit defeat over the cancellation of the 2010 train from York to Knaresborough on 27 June. Both Northern and now Transport Focus insist that the train did operate, despite the indicator at York station declaring it to be cancelled - something confirmed by the booking clerk at the ticket office and the presence of a train to Knaresborough in the bay platform at York from before 2010 until its departure as the next service at 2110!
Arriva Trains Wales admitted their failing and paid up promptly, which just leaves Trans Pennine, who, like Northern, insist I did not arrive late at my destination and who have ignored my first email to their "Customer Assistance Team" (sic) asking them to reconsider. I've now sent a second request and if they don't respond to that it will be Transport Focus again.
So, Latest Score: Jim 2 Railways 1 (and 1 game gone to extra time).