According to the message from the First Group Essex’ regional managing director, Nigel Barrett, “First is proud to be able to provide an unrivalled service to this corner of the country.” Hmmm. Nigel Barrett might want to check on the #61/61A bus service from North Station to Wivenhoe for this supposedly “unrivalled service”. Did he mean unrivalled bad or non-existent service?
I commute to work because I don’t drive. Yet. I’m now seriously rethinking this whole commute thing. It may be cheaper and more convenient for me to drive. Because the train fares are scheduled to go up again, but mostly because the bus service that I use is very unreliable. The only reliable thing about the 61/61A bus service from North Station to Wivenhoe is that it is either going to be late or it will not arrive at all.
One horrific experience was waiting for the 61A bus to take me to North Station for over an hour in winter time, in the cold, in the dark. I was intending to get on either the 16:47 or the 17:07 so I was at the bus stop at 16:42 and waited for my bus. But at 18:15, I had begun to realise that the bus was never going to get there. So why did I wait, you ask, erm, because the schedule said that there was going to be a bus. And I called Traveline, and the person I spoke to said a bus was coming, that it was on schedule. They lied, on this particular day. I called a cab company and got a taxi to North Station.
I wrote an email to First Bus by using the form on their website. I’m still waiting for a reply. That experience happened in November 2010.
The 61/61A bus is always late or never arrives. I can say this with absolute certainty because I’ve stood there, at the bus stop on Whitehall Road waiting for the bus.
Two weeks ago, I decided to take the earlier bus because I wanted to get home earlier that evening (I’d gotten to work before 8AM that day!). So walked to the bus station fully expecting to get on either the 1607 or the 1627 bus. But the bus arrived after 16:35. I was irritated but it was a sunny day and I was determined not to let it get to me.
On the 24th of August, I’d decided to go home early again because I’d gotten to work early. I walked to the bus station with enough time to get on the 16:27 bus. I’d seen a 61 bus pass by and I felt a certain amount of relief because that usually meant that the bus service was running and the 61A bus to North Station would arrive soon. A lady was already there waiting at the stop. 16:27 had gone by. So I thought I’d check the bus schedule posted on the bus station just to make sure that I had it right, that there was going to be a bus at16:27. It clearly said there would be buses every 20 minutes. The lady noticed that I was checking the bus times and she said she’d been at the bus station at 10 to four that afternoon and that the bus for 16:07 had not arrived. Finally, the bus arrives (with another one right behind it!) and the lady who was waiting with me obviously thought it would be a good thing for the bus driver to know that the bus was late.
So she said to the bus driver that the bus was late and she had missed her connection. What does the bus driver say to her? “Not my problem!” And to add insult to injury, while the lady was taking a seat, he shouts to her, “Are you trying to start a fight?” When the lady doesn’t reply, the driver says, “I didn’t think so.”
I quickly sent a tweet to First Buses East to let them know what had happened. I didn’t think a paying customer should’ve treated the way this lady was. The least the bus driver could’ve done was say that the complaint was noted.
The reply tweet I got today, 27 August, was not what I was expecting. I guess whoever was managing the First Bus Essex Twitter account shared the same sentiments as the driver. That the passenger shouldn’t complain anymore since she was on the bus already!
Here’s the tweet exchange:
I used to work as a customer service representative. So I know what customer service is. This was NOT customer service.
Shame on you First Bus Essex!