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Does it really pay to use public transport?

Car ownership is exceedingly high given the size of the country. At the end of last year, the stock of licensed motor vehicles stood at 311,947. Of these, 76.9 per cent consisted of private vehicles and 15.5 per cent were commercial.

Higher fuel prices thus affect the pockets of many. When the latest increase in the price of fuel was announced, Arriva’s public relations arm noted publicly that not only would the rise in fuel prices not affect fares but that it also paid to use the buses. It even listed examples of how much it would cost a commuter to use one’s own car as against public transport.

The difference between what one pays in fuel when using one’s own car and a bus trip can be quite significant. However, when Arriva flagged this, it did not take into consideration other reasons why many still prefer to make their own transport arrangements.

Although complaints about the service offered by Arriva are few compared to when they started last year, there are still a lot of disgruntled commuters, as a cursory look at the letters’ pages would show. Readers complain that buses are seldom on time, that, at times, they do not show up and that buses change routes leaving commuters stranded, just to mention three of the more common complaints.

What action is taken when reports are made to customer care?

And what about the driving? Do Arriva officials board the buses regularly to see for themselves or do they only stick to their cars?

It seems that some drivers have not yet got used to the new buses, braking suddenly, driving in the middle of the road and failing to stop close to the kerb to allow passengers to get on and off easily while, at the same time, also stalling traffic. There are a few who act as though they are the kings of the road too.

When Arriva took over, getting on the bus was a welcome experience and a change in attitude was immediately evident. However, this has all changed and there has been a re-emergence of arrogance, generally speaking, of course.

Responsibility for the choice of buses, some of which tend to be too big and wide for our roads, lack of adherence to timetables, better customer care and not taking commuters for a ride should be shouldered by those in charge. It is about time heads rolled for it is no use saying that the service is still new and that things will settle down eventually. More than nine months have passed since Arriva buses hit our roads and the promised improvement in service seems to be forever eluding us. This is no longer a case of tolerating teething troubles.

If Arriva does not do it, then the authorities responsible for public transport should see to it themselves, even though they too have a lot to answer for. They must ensure that the buses run on time, stick to their designated lanes and not take up entire roads by not using bus bays or stopping in the middle of the road.

The police and wardens have a job to do too and must ensure motorists do not obstruct buses in any way.

It is only once a marked improvement in the service is seen that people will start to use the buses. It is only then that it would definitely pay to use the buses and that would hopefully result in a marked drop in the number of cars on the road.

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