I spend a lot of time on the public transport system in Wales. I am not wilfully a non-driver, though my wife and older daughter would dub me a master of procrastination. I can't decide if they're right or not.   My glaucoma might be a deterrent, but it shouldn't be an excuse. At my last check up I asked the Consultant about driving and he told me to consult my optician. There's experts for you!
   What strikes me about the system is the total lack of consistency and planning. Despite the fact shops open on Sundays, there remain no buses and few trains on that day. Despite the fact that many work irregular hours in cities like Cardiff, buses and trains run less frequently after 6 pm and stop at about 11 pm.
   In terms of pricing, the lack of consistency is appalling: I pay more for a return to nearby Hirwaun than I do to Cardiff! Single day Explorer tickets are all very well, but can only be used with the same company. A journey from Merthyr to Neath or Port Talbot will require switching companies and is actually more expensive than a long train one via Cardiff.
   Local buses provide regular and resonably-priced services throughout the day, yet must fear that hooligan lager louts emerge after 6.15 pm, as that is when most of them cease completely in towns like Merthyr.
   I recall with affection those Merthyr Corporation buses which would run past 10 pm. They were probably losing a lot of money, but they could have been rationalised and smaller buses introduced instead of the wholesale deregulation of Thatcher years, which ended with the inevitable monopolies anyway.
   What's needed desperately is an all-Wales transport system, whereby bus , rail and ,indeed, cycle tracks, are planned in conjunction not in competition with each other.
   This can only be achieved realistically if we have co-operative bus companies and a nationalised rail network, with full worker participation including the election  and recall of management. Regular users should also play a vital part in the running of these.
   The priorities should be the electrification of lines west ( ultimately, as far as Fishguard) and the Valley lines ( so I can travel home quicker after City matches!). North-south services, which have been improved of late, could be further boosted by the opening of new tracks, preferably linking Abergavenny with the north in an all-Wales solution.
   If rail networks naturally provide north-south links, then buses must co-ordinate with these by providing express east-west services.
   I once went by bus from Pontypridd to Bridgend ( once was enough!), a relatively short distance yet a major ordeal. It took one and half hours and seemed to double back on itself several times. Merthyr to Abergavenny takes just as long and means it's impractical to plan train journeys from that town.
   I can understand the necessity for some buses to go through every village and estate, but fast buses are also needed  and these would enhance people's opportunities of looking for employment further afield. 
   According to Traveline Cymru ( who are generally very accurate with timetables, by the way) the Merthyr to Swansea buses have been axed. This is a crazy situation given the way Swansea is developing as a city to rival Cardiff in terms of facilities and shopping.
   Anybody who has travelled by train on a Sunday knows that every Sunday is National Engineering Day and a train journey is often taken by bus. These buses can add up to an hour on longer journeys , as they have to call at out-of-the-way stations.
   Free bus travel for pensioners is in many ways an excellent policy, but all that subsidy is going into private firms. A fully co-ordinated Welsh transport policy should instead provide incentives to use an electrified train system, while cities in particular should develop trams ( I can't help thinking of the Super Furries song........... who else could make a great rock song with the line - 'We have reduced emissions by 75%.'? ).
   Train fares have risen on a regular basis recently and the £7 return from Merthyr to Cardiff doesn't vary according to peak or off-peak times, as it sensibly used to. Such fares are coercing people into using buses, which inevitably means more road congestion. Profits are the driving force and not the Welsh people.
   Cycle hire at stations and cycle tracks which run from them would be a massive boost for tourism and also help those who wish to take their bikes on the train and then cycle afterwards.
   On a separate yet related issue, any future Welsh bus co-op's and Tren Cymru could play a much greater role in promoting our culture and especially our literature.
   Private companies have done this in a sporadic manner with posters and , very rarely, writers addressing bemused travellers with their sonnets and haiku. A short extract from my poem 'Mouthy' once appeared on the Valley Lines, minus the swearing! Ironically , most of the sonnets from my book 'Walking On Waste' were written on those trains.
   There are ample spaces for such posters on buses, trains, in bus-shelters, waiting rooms and stations themselves.
   There's also a real opportunity for music and literature. Original music could be piped onto buses and used over train p.a's. Poetry could be read between announcements.
   Imagine a journey from Newport to Carmarthen which begins with Catherine Fisher's work and ends with Menna Elfyn? It'd be like a literary tour of Wales without the need for coaches and guides.
   I always recall one imaginative guard who, as we neared a scorching Merthyr announced over the p.a. - ' We are now about to land in Merthyr. The temperature is 25 degrees and rising.' Our stand-up comics could sit down for once and take over occasionally to entertain. You never know, folk might even throw off those ubiquitous head-phones!
   Artwork should be just as widespread as poetry, with exhibitions on the move everywhere and waiting-rooms a place for our print-makers to show their stuff.
   And how about all those drab shelters livened up by murals, sculptures and, indeed, graffiti artists?
   In short, an integrated transport system for Cymru could also be a cultural one : lines of communication in the widest possible sense.

                               *****************

   Buses, like trains, can provide inspiration..........

                     
               THE GIRL OO BECOME BLONDE

Sittin on-a bus t Cardiff
nex to the minginest person as always,
windows shut an I'm gaggin.

Then this girl, jest by Whitchurch,
does this really weird thing
('bout 16, dresssed in Chinos an Converse) ;

she puts a back cap over er air,
short black air an simple
not like er fren's purpley streaks an spikes;

takes out a long blonde wig
from a plastic bag an puts it on ;
nobuddy bats an eye-lid.

The girl seems appy an pats er wig
an I carn elp wonderin what for :
some date with a bloke oo likes em fair?

Is it some disguise, or t make er
look a lot older in a bar?
On a bus fulla baldies and silveries

an the mankiest person in-a universe,
the girl looks more like an actress
getting ready f'r er latest role.


                      
  
  
   
 


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