(Updated: Jim Mather, Argyll’s MSP, has already taken action on this matter – see below.)
We have had a complaint from an angry and distressed traveller – a full-fare paying passenger – on the Citylink 926 service between Campbeltown and Glasgow’s Buchanan Street Bus Terminal on Thursday 10th December.
Travelling from Furnace in Mid Argyll, the female passenger picked up one of the two coaches assigned to the service that morning, buying a return ticket but without a booked seat.
Arriving at Buchanan Street, she went to book her ticket back on the 18.00 service, queueing behind some senior citizens with Travel Passes, wishing also to book their return seats.
They were told that the 18.00 service was fully booked, that they could therefore not book a return seat but that there would be a second bus on the service.
From 17.30 onwards, a crowd of people gathered at he stance to catch the 926 to Campbeltown.
There was no second bus.
Worse – the Oban Bus – which almost always has available seats – and did – was allowed to depart before the situation at the adjoining Campbeltown stance had been resolved. This removed the obvious option of putting any passengers bound for Inveraray, or southwards, on that bus – as it stops in Inveraray before leaving the A83 northwards for Loch Aweside and Oban.
The complainant, with one other, was – brusquely – put off the 926 as, having been put off booking seats on arrival in the morning, they had no reservations. They saw the Oban bus pull away but could do nothing about it.
They were then put onto the bus to Fort William, with a third passenger bound for Lochgilphead and also with a ticket for the 926 service. The Fort William bus departs from the A83 at Tarbet on Loch Lomondside, a small township around an hour out of Glasgow, with no night time facilities and on the wrong side of Rest and Be Thankful.
A phone conversation between the driver of that bus and Citylink HQ produced instructions that the three were to be deposited at Tarbet and would find the Oban bus waiting there to take them on to Inveraray – where the 926 takes a rest stop en route. However, the three passengers in question had already been told – with characteristic brusqueness – at the Glasgow terminal that there were no southbound seats from Inveraray available on the single bus running this service on that night.
There was no sign of the Oban bus when they reached Tarbet. A second phone conversation between the driver of the Fort William bus – described as very helpful and sympathetic – produced a decision that he would take the 3 passengers on northwards to Crianlarich where they would be met by a taxi to drive them back south to their destinations.
The driver had not wanted to leave them at Tarbet where, had the taxi not turned up, they would have been left vulnerable on the roadside.
There was no taxi at Crianlarich.
A phone conversation from the driver of the Fort William bus to the taxi service produced the information that the company had, in fact, sent the taxi to Tarbet and that it would now be sent on to Crianlarich.
With the Fort William bus by now well behind schedule, the driver had to leave them at a hotel there to wait for the taxi.
The end of this tortuous narrative is straightforward enough. The taxi arrived and it took them home, the last of the three involved to Lochgilphead – from Crianlarich.
That this will have cost Citylink dearly in no more than just.
The issue is principally one of service – not a concept readily grasped across the UK – and then one of management.
Neither the wish to provide a good service worthy of the name nor any competent management at any level was evident throughout this incident – from the company to its personnel.
- This was an end-of-week day, well into the month of December, with Christmas on the near horizon. It took two buses to get people to Glasgow in the morning. There should automatically have been a second bus on the 18.00 926 service from Glasgow to Campbeltown.
- The demand for this service is strong and had increased. It regularly requires two buses on the morning service to Glasgow and on the return evening service back to Campbeltown.
- The willingness to mislead and obstruct requires explanation. Why were those queueing at the Buchanan Street desk in the morning to book return tickets not allowed to do so – and given false reassurance that there would be a second bus on the route that night?
- Why is it not automatic to retain the Oban bus on its stance until any positive part it might play in difficulties arising with the A83 926 service to Campbeltown has been implemented?
- Why was the taxi sent to Tarbet when the driver had specified Crianlarich – for the safety of the passengers?
Citylink, remember, is the operator that attempted to put West Coast Motors out of business in a contractual dispute it began by trying to cut the terms of a service agreement with the Argyll company.
In what was known in the summer of 2008 as ‘the Bus Wars‘, Citylink were happy then to spend a fortune on duplicate services in a particularly dirty cost-cutting competitive campaign between it and its wronged local supplier. Argyll supported the home business and in the end the bigger company, Citylink, had to back away and renew the service contract.
Citylink would be advised simply to invest in running the decent professional service expected of it – not a lottery, not a daily gauntlet-run of uncertainty and rudeness.
This narrative is no more tha a single example of a constant series of complaints about this ‘service’ – which regularly sees passengers put off buses, left at terminals and simply bypassed at roadside bus stops.
In a city, where alternative means of transport are available, people would be able to manage.
On a rural service to a remote place – the journey between Glasgow and Campbeltown takes 4 hours and 15 minutes, such a provision is utterly unacceptable. We are drawing this to the attention of the appropriate authorities as well as to Citylink.
This is not a bus service. It is a bad-mannered and ill-managed pantomime. Argyll needs and must get a far better service that treats passengers with the dignity and consideration they deserve. They are, after all, seeking to buy the service on offer.
Update 14.30 13th December: Jim Mather, MSP for Argyll & and Minister for Tourism, has picked up this matter and has already copied it to Douglas Blades at Argyll & Bute Council Council, the Transport Minister and Citylink. He is looking for a response and for remedial action.
Note: Passengers either with a Travel Pass or buying a ticket, may reserve seats – including a return journey by one of three methods:
- at a local tourist office
- online at the Citylink website
- from the driver of the bus
A booking fee of 50p is charged.
If, at the same time, a passenger reserves a seat for both the outward and return journey, the single booking fee of 50 pence covers both reservations.
If bookings for each journey are mde separately, each incurs the booking fee of 50 pence.