Skip to content

Off The Buses

March 30, 2012

I love local newspapers. In exactly the same way as I love the cringe-worthy contestants in the X Factor auditions – you know, the ones who are SO bad they’re funny. Local rags tend to be full of bland stories about the inane and irrelevant, with about the same journalistic skill  as an eight year-old would employ in September’s ‘What I Did Over The Summer Holidays’ essay. Take this wonderful example.

£2.87million pounds is being spent improving the bus service in Milton Keynes. Nothing wrong with that you might say, but hear me out. According to the article in front of me, MK Council will receive two separate grants, including,

“£2.23m from the national ‘Better Bus Area’ fund, and will be using this to expand the real-time passenger information systems to include audio-visual information on buses, to help people with disabilities use the bus network and provide web and mobile access.”

Still awake?

“This money will also help develop smart ticketing and deliver personalised travel planning packs, including bus information to 33,000 households living near […] and to 10,000 employees in key employment areas on these routes.

Bear with me, there’s one more sentence.

“The council will now also provide better signs and information to help passengers who use several bus routes more easily make their connections, and will set up signposts within at least three estates to tell people where the nearest bus stop is on adjacent grid roads.”

Well done for getting through that. I’m sorry I had to inflict in on you, but you’ll be all-the-stronger for it.

Points of contention time. Firstly, just as an article, it’s as dry as a Singapore Sling, except without any of the enjoyment. The writer has obviously just copied and pasted from the press release. Lose marks for lack of initiative. Secondly, as anyone who has to endure living in Milton Keynes will tell you, here is a town that was designed for car travel. Outsiders, or normal people as I like to call them, often remark on the amount of roundabouts we have. Actually, this is about the only thing the wannabe city has going for it because, where every other town and city has traffic lights, our roundabouts make it relatively easy to cross from one side of MK to the other in under 15 minutes during rush hour. There, I’ve said something positive about Milton Keynes. Don’t expect it to happen again. As a ‘car town’ it is much harder than anywhere else I’ve ever lived to survive without your own transport. Rail links to London and Birmingham are reasonable due to the West Coast Main line. The bus service, however is shocking. Routes tend to go all around the houses and via what is known locally as The Centre. Forget the lies, damn lies and statistics, the anecdotal evidence from people who  actually  have to endure the service is far from complimentary. So in terms of not being able to polish a turd, it’s one thing to recognise that what you have on your hands is, in fact a turd, but another thing entirely to create signage pointing out where your turd can be located. Does a bus service that struggles to be any good really need “Web and mobile access”? Maybe it will spare the poor sods who have to sit on it for up to an hour at a time the tedium that will send them into the jaws of insanity. But a turd with an iPod and internet access is still, well a turd. Because what passengers really need at their bus stops is an electronic sign telling them how late their turd is going to be.

Spending £2.23m on leafleting houses, telling them that there is a bus service that goes from A to B isn’t what I call value for money. Local residents already know there is a bus service. They also know how bad it is. MK recycling plant ought to be preparing itself for a massive influx of unwanted leaflets. Why don’t they just cut out the middle man and take the bank notes straight there. At least it might save a few trees. And please, why in the name of Reg Varney’s satchel do we need signs helping passengers ‘more easily make their connections’? Are people completely incapable of asking the driver?

£2.87 is a lot of tax payers money. A half decent journalist might have asked some probing questions. They might have asked, for example why there state of the roads makes some parts of the town look like Beirut. I suppose though, to be fair, that if you write for a rag that’s generally considered to be in the council’s pocket, then you don’t have much of a choice.

I live in a new estate on the perimeter of town. There used to be a roundabout where we drive in and out. Now there is a set of traffic lights. It was set up so badly that there were a number of accidents. It’s now been altered. It’s still dangerous, but that’s Milton Keynes Council for you.

The words ‘organise’, ‘brewery’, ‘piss up’ and ‘couldn’t’ spring to mind.


  1. your criticism of the parish-pump press could be extended even to the national papers and reporting at that level is probably restricted by similiar restraints. indeed, some sort of investigative journalism at the local level, might hope a right little can of worms somewhere along the line that has the potential to go all the way to the top.

    although i left in 79, i am originally from scotland, is mk not the place that is full of scots. will they all be going back to vote in the referendum?

  2. actually, i think i might be thinking about corby!

    • You’re right, it is Corby. Corby had a steel works and there was a mass migration in the 70s & 80s as plants were being closed in Scotland. You’re also right about the nationals. Woe betide any hack who works for News Int who writes something Murdoch disagrees with. I think that’s what’s known in the trade as professional suicide.

Leave a Reply - no need to log in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: