Yes, I know. More prosaic than poetic, but as a non-car-owning-non-driver public transport kinda matters.

Not that the bus system in Swindon is without its drawbacks:

1) Come Sundays and Bank Holidays living in my area of West Swindon is akin to being electronically tagged with the last bus out to town being around 5pm. Now as far as I know every bar/pub/restaurant in town doesn’t shut on a Sunday evening – though they may as well because, unless I get a taxi, I’m going nowhere.

2) The ‘spokes-of-a-wheel’ set-up of the Thamesdown Transport routes: from whatever point around Swindon you are travelling, there are no (as far as I’m aware) circular routes to anywhere. One has to go into the town centre and get another bus back out to wherever you want to be. As a result, for me to get to somewhere like, say, the Orbital centre in North Swindon can take an hour or more depending on time of day etc. I can get to Bristol in that time.  This for an area that is 15 mins by car. So I just don’t go.

3) And I really, really, bitterly resent the ‘Fast Fare’ system. It’s not fast and it’s not ‘fare’. In fact it’s a right, royal pain in the bum having to have the correct amount of change the whole time. I no sooner get money out of the cash-point than it disappears into little piles of money ready for bus-fares. Not good Thamesdown Transport. Not good at all.I’d love to see the back of that system!

So what’s good about it then? Well for a start, generally speaking, the buses turn up. Where it says on the timetable there will be a bus – by and large there is a bus! I know you’d think that is stating the obvious but I happen to frequent a certain university city just down the motorway and the bus services there are shockingly bad. They bear no discernable relation to the timetables and are dreadfully expensive as well. There are a number of bus companies in Bristol. One of, if not THE, most expensive is First buses – unsurprisingly as they are a subsidiary of a well-known train operator that runs in this region, one renowned for its high ticket prices. Though at least here there is no hateful fast fare system!

Secondly – in Swindon we have two bus companies, who, with a measure of  ‘joined-up’ thinking, allow a travel pass or day-rider bought on one to be used on the other. Also sadly lacking down the motorway. So well done Swindon on that.

Thirdly – the prices – again, really not too bad. Though I would like to see an interim fare for when you are only going to town and back. The £3.60 day rider is brilliant value when you are going to town and then on to Red House or Orbital or the hospital or wherever. But couldn’t there be something in between for those of us just wanting to nip to town and back rather than this ‘one-size-fits-all’ fare?  Yes, I know there are weekly, monthly and three-monthly travel passes but they are only viable if travelling for four days a week or more. It does actually put me off going into town sometimes. Whilst that’s good news for my credit card, if there are other people like me that are similarly put off then it’s not good news for the town centre.

4th September 2013 – I should add that there is now a multi-day rider thing which lets you buy five day-riders and get the 6th free. This is a great help for sure but I maintain that £3.60 is a lot to go to town and back. I can get to Oxford and back for just under £6…

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