Bethany Smith, “Partnership Executive” at National Express, came to talk to COV’s Management Committee recently about a new scheme to help older bus passengers in the City.
The scheme, called “Bus Buddies”, will be trialled on the 21 service between Wood End and Bell Green to the City Centre and Willenhall, early in the new year.
The aim is to give older people “A little extra help when needed”. Between the hours of 9.30 am until 11.30 am, and then 1.30 pm until 3.30 pm, Bus Buddies will be on hand to assist senior passengers with things such as getting on and off the bus, carrying shopping, and finding a seat. Buddies will be off-shift drivers.Feedback will be collected from passengers during the trial, to judge whether it has been successful, and whether it should be extended to other routes.
Here is an article by Bert Frazier, who is a member of the COV Management Committee:
It would be in the interest of people using public transport if they are able to experience a safe and comfortable journey.
The National Express Coventry / National Express West Midlands “Safe Travel Guide”, dated September 2015, is a helpful publication, and is available from Pool Meadow Bus Station. I would like to draw your attention to the back page, and the items under the heading “Courtesy of All Users”:
Some National Express Buses display notices stating “See Something, Say Something”, from the Safer Travel Team, illustrating antisocial behaviour in silhouette. Other notices state “Nobody likes wet and dirty seats – Please keep your feet on the floor."
I invite travellers to consider:
COV are continuing to seek improvements to the quality of bus travel experienced by older people in Coventry. We do this by:
All in all, it has been a bit of a struggle! It has been difficult to find out who is responsible for what, and difficult to contact them (let alone get a response).
Recently though things have looked up a bit.
Andrew Harding from Transport for West Midlands met recently with the COV Management Committee to explain the role of this organization, which has replaced Centro now that Coventry is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). He also answered questions on various local transport issues raised by members.
Then in December Councillor David Welsh (who is a Member of the Transport Delivery Committee for WMCA and Chair of the Age-Friendly Coventry Transport Theme Group), spoke to us about how COV, older people, and the public in general, could have a say in transport matters.
Finally, COV has been invited to send a representative to the Council’s Business, Economy and Enterprise Scrutiny Board, which will be meeting on 15th February to discuss public transport matters, and in particular how the bus service in the City can be improved. Bridget Harper (COV Vice-Chair) will be attending on our behalf, and we have made a written submission about issues that particularly concern us - namely timekeeping, communications, and the location and design of bus shelters. You can read the submission here.
Hopefully we will have some good news to report soon. Please watch this space, and remember that you can discuss your views with other COV members (and anyone else who looks at the website) via the COV Forum.
In earlier articles on this website we reported on problems experienced by older people when travelling by bus. One of these sometimes begins even before the journey starts, as Anne Lakin, Chair of Coventry Older Voices, explained in a letter to Centro Chairman Councillor John McNicholas on 18th September 2015:
Coventry Older Voices (COV) appreciated your support at the COV launch meeting on 13th May 2014. We also welcomed your invitation for COV to be represented at consultation meetngs arranged by CENTRO and to share in your knowledge and responsibilities on transport matters.
COV has considerable interest in bus shelter design and location. Older people are often vulnerable to adverse weather, and may not have alternative means of travel. We are pleased therefore to see that the shelters in Upper Well Street and on Warwick Road Railway Bridge are a design that is “Fit for the purpose” in that they have a front, back, and two ends – therefore providing adequate shelter.
We now request that similar shelters be provided in Hales Street, Trinity Street, Corporation Street, the bus interchange at the railway station, Queen Victoria Road, New Union Street and Hearsall Common near Earlsdon Avenue North. These locations are very busy, very exposed, or both. In addition, we ask that the shelter on Walsgrave Road under the flyover by Gosford Green be relocated to a location where shelter is needed.
We are disappointed that similar requests by the COV representatives at CENTRO consultation meetings seem so far to have fallen on deaf ears, and hope that we can look forward to your support in this matter.”
We have yet to receive a reply from Councillor McNicholas, who is also Chair of Centro’s Coventry Area Engagement Group. Meanwhile, Centro’s position was made clear in an email from Andrew Harding, Network Co-ordination and Services Specialist:
"How passengers use different bus shelter layouts is not straightforward. Research and survey work, in measuring behaviour, shows that more open shelters are preferred by many. To illustrate some of the issues, a pensioner waiting for a bus on Hearsall Common on a wintry morning is likely to complain about inadequate shelter. However, that evening a lone female student is likely to prefer an open shelter, however bad the weather, where she feels she is less likely to get ‘trapped’ by the ‘mad, bad, or sad’. As a consequence Centro has adopted as its usual layout an open configuration. London and other conurbations also now generally have adopted the same layout.
There are no plans and no prospect of the specific shelters in question being changed. I hope this helps explain Centro’s rationale, but if you need more let me know."
COV has not seen details of the “research and survey work”, and we remain to be convinced about its conclusions. However, it seems that Centro’s mind is already made up on the subject of bus shelters, and calls into question the purpose of consultation exercises such as Centro’s Area Engagement Groups.
Do let us know what you think!
There seems to be a problemwith an obvious solution here!
Following the interview with COV member Bridget Harper on Shane O'Connor's BBC CWR Breakfast Show, COV has written to Guy Craddock (Coventry Area Manager of Centro) to challenge some of the assertions in his response.
You can read the full text of the letter here.
We thank Mr Craddock for his reply, and we will be contacting him to arrange a meeting.
COV member Bridget Harper spoke recently to Shane O’Connor on his BBC CWR Breakfast Show - about the changes to bus routes due to the road works in the City centre. In particular, she described the confusion at Poole Meadow because of the poor availability of information - and some information that was incorrect.
You can listen to Bridget on BBC CWR's website, by clicking here. (It's available until 17th September). The interview starts 9 minutes in to the programme and lasts approximately 5 minutes.
Later in the programme there are responses from Guy Craddock (Coventry Area Manager for Centro) and Paul Boulton (Head of Traffic and Transportation for Coventry City Council) - about 1 hour and 2 hours respectively into the programme.
First the good news: COV now has two representatives on the Age Friendly Cities (AFC) Transport theme group, (see the Age Friendly Coventry page for more details of this) as well as two members on the Centro “Partner Engagement Group”. We hope that this will significantly increase our ability to influence policy, particularly concerning public transport.
The bad news is that the AFC Transport theme group has yet to meet (while the other two theme groups have). We will be chasing this up, and will let you know the outcome.
Transport problems are no laughing matter for older people in Coventry. This was confirmed at the COV launch event in May 2014, and in subsequent consultations. Many of those who took part said that dealing with the problem of getting from A to B (with some sort of comfort, dignity and reliability) is top of their list for improving their quality of life.
This is especially so in the case of public transport, and particularly bus services. The free bus pass available to those who qualify is undoubtedly highly valued and appreciated. However, COV members have expressed dissatisfaction with several aspects of travelling by bus in Coventry, including:
COV has several members who attend the Centro “Partner Engagement Group”, and they are particularly concerned with the following issues, and feel that they are not being satisfactorily addressed:
COV will continue to press for improvements in these areas, and welcomes your experiences and views. Do let us know what you think using the Forum pages of this website.