Saturday, 5 May 2012

Bus Station Delights

One of the many joys about the new Chatham 'Bus Facility, which is now several months old, is that as a 'bus enthusiast (though nowhere near as much as I am a rail enthusiast!) I now have a much better view of "who's in".

Since moving to Chatham over fifteen years ago I have devised pet names for the 'buses, both the series and (in some cases) for individual vehicles – all based on their licence plates.

Thus the route 101 'buses are "Gin fifty-eights" as their licence numbers all start with GN58, and within that series are "Busy" (GN58 BSY), "Bite" (GN58 BTE) and others.

This isn't so easy to personalise with, say, the "Pumpkin class" single-deckers (named after the P*** MKN vehicles, but also encompassing the identical P*** LKJ and "Puff Pack P** FPK series, though not the different-design P***APM -numbered "Pap-ums") though at least the single-decker versions of the GN04 s ("Ga-know fours") include such delights as "The Judge" (GN04 UDJ) which is so often on route 145 and rarely on other routes, and "Udder" (GN04 UDD).

It all helps me to keep mental track of what is coming, going and on what routes, without having to become a "spotter" complete with notebook – something I have never done in my life.

When the 'bus station was in the Pentagon Centre, it was actually very difficult to tell much of what was happening, as parked or waiting 'buses were often in the way, and there wasn't room to step back and thus have a longer viewing time. Also those corners limited one's viewing time and warning of an approach, which was inaudible if a 'bus nearby had its engine running.

Now, though, it's vastly better! In fact, I have been known to take a small diversion on my travels to sneak a quick glance at the facility's activity, perhaps on my way into the Pentagon for shopping. It really is very good indeed for 'bus watching, as well as all the other benefits it has brought, which are considerable.

Indeed, the inside word is that the public are much more in favour of the new facility than the more dishonest political movements (yes, that means you, Medway Labour!) would have us believe. My understanding from as-yet unpublished data is that the public are in favour of it by quite a large majority. All it took was a few months to adapt to the change, and they are now mostly on board.

Medway Labour can always find a dissenter or three, especially when their own stance is so well known, and they will no doubt find ways to skew their own 'surveys' to get the result they prefer (I can think of several easy methods that I am aware have been used in the past) but properly conducted professional polls will always count for far more, and that I gather is what is now on file somewhere within the council.

I expect some former users of the dark and dingy old Pentagon-based facility no longer go via that route/method; but by the looks of the current usage (and I was very familiar with the Pentagon's levels of activity at all times of day) they are relatively few, or have been mostly offset by new users. The nett change appears to be fractional, though we shall need to await official figures from the various 'bus operators after an appropriate period to find out what the actual overall impact has been.

No doubt the full results of both the satisfaction survey and the usage statistics will appear in the next report on the subject of the 'bus facility to come before the Cabinet or full Council. I shall be interested to study those figures and the rest of the report...

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the new facility, and – by the looks of those I spot as I (frequently) breeze through all of the main waiting areas and some of those in Waterfront Way – so are the public-at-large. I haven't found anyone grumpy there since a little less than three weeks after it opened, which is very encouraging.

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