Reporter Jamie Henderson was a lone passenger on the ‘ghost bus’
11:05am Monday 26th January 2009
By Jamie Henderson
The Government have scrapped London’s controversial “ghost bus” that cost taxpayers £500 a day but did not carry any passengers.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has agreed that the weekly bus service from Ealing Broadway to Wandsworth will be replaced by a train service after pressure from travel watchdogs.
The bus service was put in place in December in order to avoid the lengthy and costly public consultation procedure required to shut down a railway line.
At the time, the Government had decided to withdraw the Birmingham to Brighton Arriva Cross Country service. But rather than follow the consultation process, which is a legal requirement, the DfT instead opted to keep the bus service running – costing them a fraction of the price.
Every Tuesday at 9.45am, a 50-seat executive coach departed from an unmarked stop outside Ealing Broadway station in west London. No one ever got on and it drove empty for 70 minutes to Wandsworth, where it waited for two hours before returning, again carrying no passengers.
However, London TravelWatch and Passenger Focus argued that a proper closure procedure, with full consultation, should have been implemented before the bus service replaced the rail service.
The watchdogs feared that the secret bus service set a dangerous precedent for further closures by stealth.
Sharon Grant, chair of London TravelWatch, said: “We were always unhappy with the solution to run a weekly bus, and received complaints from passengers.
“After months of pressing the DfT, we are delighted that there is agreement that a bus service is not an adequate replacement for a train service, and that a full, legal closure process would have to be undertaken before this arrangement could be made permanent.”
However, the DfT has yet to confirm the details of any replacement service.
“The devil, of course, is in the detail, and we will be looking very closely at any solutions the DfT provide, to ensure that it is provides passengers with a useful service, as well as being cost-effective,” said Ms Grant.
Source : http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk