I’M sure it’s only a coincidence, but isn’t it strange that taxi fares have gone up in Weymouth and Portland at the same time as bus giant First has cut several services and altered a lot more?
As from March 24th you’d better not live in Southill, Sutton Poyntz or parts of Wyke Regis because, unless you drive, it’s a taxi or Shank’s pony for you.
There increasingly seems to be a sea change in this most public of services from the sepia tinted transport lifeline provided for communities to a much more business-is-business approach.
I’m sure passengers aren’t exactly laughing about the situation, but I’m certain that there were a few incredulous smiles when First said that one of the reasons some of its services were being altered or axed altogetherr was that its drivers found it difficult to negotiate narrow roads!
Such comments clearly do little to turn the heat down on people’s simmering pot of resentment that big companies, regardless of what they provide, are increasingly only interested in profits.
What irks many people, particularly those in Southill, is that First claims a lot of its problems keeping routes viable lie with the poor level of subsidy it receives for bus passes.
That may have a grain of truth in it, but more than 200 people attended a huge protest rally in Southill today and the message which came out of that loud and clear was that many were prepared to pay something to get their currently free passes.
But, when the area’s county councillor suggested this to First, the company didn’t even bother to reply.
Far be it for me to suggest that perhaps cuts were always on the agenda and it was merely a question of how they could be eased in with the minimum of flak and bad publicity.
What everyone’s main concern has to be now is that — assuming First makes good its proposed changes on March 24th — what are all its inconvenienced passengers going to do and how can the rest of the community make sure that the elderly and the most vulnerable affected by these proposals suffer the least possible inconvenience?
The answer is neither simple nor obvious.
Sure, taxis are available, but as one octogenarian told me, she can afford one or two but not a daily taxi to match her daily use of the bus, so something will have to give.
Perhaps the simplest solution would just be for us all to move and live next to a giant supermarket built next to a doctor’s surgery, hospital, pub and restaurant.
That way we wouldn’t really need a bus for any of those pursuits which would give First an opportunity to save even more money by shutting down the rest of its bus services across the borough and investing the savings it would make in a new venture…such as a taxi service!