Advantages They sometimes run buses
Disadvantages Overcrowded, unreliable, dirty, drivers are unfriendly
So, Arriva. Specifically, Arriva buses in Darlington. The random, ramshackle end of my daily commute, ensuring that I'll arrive in work at a different time each day.Let's start with actually catching a bus in the first place. The board at my usual bus stop assures me there's a timetable; within the first week of using Arriva services, you'll soon come to the realisation that the poster on the wall is actually a list of times when you can guarantee that there won't be a bus arriving. It seems that things are pretty much completely random. Some days, I'll have to wait a couple of minutes for my bus, other days I'll have to wait twenty minutes or more, despite the timetable assuring me that there should have been four buses arrive in that time.
Next, you have to convince the thing to stop. Getting an Arriva bus to stop can be a real challenge at times; sometimes they're so overcrowded, there's just no room to fit any more people on. On more than one occasion, I've seen their drivers go past a crowded bus stop, despite having a virtually empty bus and having one or more people at the bus stop holding their arm out to try and give the driver the hint that people may want to get on a bus, rather than just milling around the bus stop looking anxious.Let's assume the bus has actually come to a stop - the next challenge is to get the driver to accept your ticket. I use a Plusbus ticket, which means that I buy my bus and train tickets at the same time. You'd think that drivers who operate services that run past the railway station would be aware of these things, but that's not always the case. It's not uncommon for drivers to be confused by my ticket and on one occasion, I ended up having a five minute argument in order to get them to accept it; the driver was adamant that he had to punch it, despite me questioning what exactly my monthly ticket would look like if it got punched every time I got on the bus.
Even if the drivers are happy with your ticket, there's rarely any indication of this. Very few drivers will actually acknowledge that your ticket is valid, meaning that quite often you're either left standing there like an idiot holding your ticket out for their inspection, until such a point as the driver gets ratty and moves you on, or you end up assuming they're happy and disappearing down the bus, only for the driver to shout after you because they haven't finished figuring out if your ticket is dodgy or not.Now that you're finally on the bus - what's it like? Well, Arriva buses are usually somewhere in the region of 20 years old. Dirty. Full of rubbish. And this is first thing in the morning, you'd think the buses would be fairly clean first thing after leaving the depot, but Arriva have different ideas. And as I said above, often crowded at peak times. Arriva seem happy to run empty buses to residential areas, without a thought of moving some of them to commuter routes to alleviate the overcrowding.
Public transport doesn't have to be like this. Arriva aren't the only bus company I use in any one day - I'll use a Go North East bus for the part of my journey between home and my nearest railway station. Arriva could learn from these people; a modern, clean fleet. Punctual. Amenable drivers. I wonder how Arriva would fare if they actually had some competition instead of running the only buses that serve a route?
|Quality of Rooms|
|Frequency of bus / buses|
|Value for money|
|Staff courtesy/helpfulness||Very Poor|
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