Editor: Public travel is a joke and there is no funny punchline

Just as the buses get back to normal after the Stagecoach strike, First announced that many of their services would have to be cut due to staff shortages.

By Nancy Fielder
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 6:34 am
Sheffield station
Sheffield station

Forgive me if I am stating the obvious but our public transport is a joke.

You only have to try and travel any distance on a bus in this city to know that is true. The Star regularly reports on it and we have a whole series of features planned for this week to lift the lid on the real situation faced by bus users.

But it is also officially true that our trains are worse than ever. New figures show that rail passengers are in the middle of the worst run of cancellations on record and it is being blamed on missing staff.

Now I had plans to catch a train to travel a relatively short distance at the weekend. One look at the timetables showed that there was a raft of cancellations and delays so inevitably I jumped in my car instead. I had to collect friends from a train station over the festive season as they struggled to get to our house from theirs – services closed down when they were halfway here.

Every time we plan anything that involves a rail journey, it seems to end in serious delays or complete disaster.

But if we avoid the trains, less people use them, our planet gets more polluted and investment in the services shrink. What a wicked Catch 22. As the Omicron variant spread across the country, it was estimated around 10 per cent of rail staff were unable to go to work.

Around 4.4 per cent of services across Britain were cancelled between December 12 and January 8, according to Network Rail.

There were more emergency timetables than even and fewer trains to increase reliability.

Customers are being advised to check for updates before setting out on their journey – but whenever I do that it is enough to put me off completely.

When you top the unreliability with the fact that rail fares are set to rise by 3.8 per cent in March – the biggest increase since 2013 – it is enough to make you want to give up. The approach to how we care for public transport makes no sense. It would be easy to think that somebody is deliberately undermining and crushing the system – and they are doing a very efficient job of it.