Department needs to get a grip
Tuesday 3rd September 2013, 4:00PM BST.
WITH Guernsey’s bus service rarely out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the Environment minister’s comment yesterday that industrial relations were a matter for CT Plus and its staff was interesting.
From the operator’s perspective, it can’t do much without Environment sign-off and it is the department that approves the timetable, routes, dual charging fare structures and even the vehicles its drivers pilot around island roads.
If the company fails to run a certain number of services, Environment penalises it financially, as it has done for the last three months. And in part that’s down to the one-day stoppage in June, which hit about 7,000 passenger journeys.
So Environment is hands-on when it feels like it but less so when it doesn’t.
It would be wrong to try to interfere in the industrial relations in a private company but with so much taxpayer money going into a service that is clearly struggling it is surprising the department appears so disinterested in that which has so much potential to disrupt public transport locally.
It also seems curiously detached from the complaints about the quality of the bus service and, especially, the two-tier pricing system which the company requested and which the department endorsed.
This newspaper has never had so many letters of complaint from visitors about a single issue and it is damaging to the island’s image as a welcoming destination. In addition, locals too are opposed to it and a groundswell appears to be building against CT Plus as operator.
One deputy is to canvass feelings among her Assembly colleagues and there is a sense that perhaps a States debate is needed to ascertain why Environment is giving off such a strong Catherine Tate-like ‘am I bovvered?’ vibe over the complaints that the bus service is attracting.
Is it because the department knows CT Plus’s days are numbered when the contract expires or does it – unlike when it comes to the island’s traffic strategy – have a cunning plan?
Whichever it might be, there’s nothing coming from Environment that says to islanders, or bemused visitors, it has a grasp of the situation or is doing anything to stem the tide of dissatisfaction and that must change.