By Amy Beveridge
Trips home are supposed to be relaxing – a welcome break from the stresses and strains of university life. But what was meant to be a quick overnight stay has turned into Mission Impossible – Stirling. Instead of having a chilled journey back to university, I’m sitting fuming on yet another replacement bus taking me far away from where I really want to be.
Let’s be clear – taking public transport stresses me out a lot. It’s late, it’s crowded, and it’s expensive. It never seems as efficient as it should be. But as a student who doesn’t drive, public transport is a necessary evil that must be faced if I want to make it from A to B.
That being said, these latest rail issues really grind my gears. After a long hot summer of lengthy train journeys due to engineering works at Glasgow’s Queen Street station, Scotrail has introduced a fresh wave of disruption. This means the rail service will be plagued by yet more lateness and cancellations, not forgetting the dreaded replacement buses. And all in the run-up to Christmas – not great timing!
If you’re a busy student like me, the ability to travel across Scotland at a moment’s notice is essential. It should be a right, not a privilege. Myself and many others do not have time to plan journeys that take several more hours than they ought to. And I shouldn’t have to – the service should be reliable enough on its own.
I’m not the only one frustrated at these seemingly endless problems. Just last month Scotrail were fined £483,000 for failing to meet required standards for trains and stations. It’s almost funny that they’ll pay off that fine using the overpriced fares we all pay for the privilege of travelling on their mediocre service.
It may seem like I’m being overly harsh, but let’s look at the bigger picture. Every year rail prices go up, and travellers like you and me pay more. Yet the service never gets any better. This is pretty hard to justify when the common commuter is forking out just to get to work and back. It’s not fair, and it must change.
Speaking of change, our nation’s rail service is not the only one who have been slyly raising the prices. I was shocked to return this semester and discover that the student prices on Stirling’s buses have increased.
But why? They are still late, and staffed by the unfriendliest drivers known to man. A reason I live on campus is so I can avoid the hassle of taking a bus to and from the university every day. But a huge proportion of Stirling’s students do live in town, and therefore rely on buses to make it to class in time. If a bus simply does not show up, then that’s not good enough.
Students everywhere depend on public transport – to commute to university, to see friends and family, and to make the most of their new-found freedom. When it becomes too expensive or disrupted to use, then it will impact on our lives the most. I feel that I am trapped – like most students, I cannot afford to run a car, yet I can no longer rely on public transport to take me to where I need to be, when I need to be there. All I want is to be able to travel in reasonable comfort, in reasonable time, and all for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, this appears to be too much to ask.
By Claire Keraudren
The bus has been my main form of public transport since setting foot in Scotland. The Edinburgh Airport Link was clean, comfortable and well-lit! Pulling out all the stops to make a tourist happy.
The magic wore off a little bit with a glance at the price of a single journey £4.50, but such is the cost of airport connections these days.
Things turned confusing when my best friend and hostess had a look at the train schedule from Edinburgh Haymarket to Alloa, only to confirm that – due to works – there would be a replacement coach.
It was comfortable enough, and it wasn’t too much fuss. Until the final stop turned out to be Polmont and no trains seemed to be departing from there either.
If you’re wondering why two young ladies with English accents didn’t feel comfortable there after dark, you should research Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institution Polmont. Admittedly, the risks of an escapee attacking us that night were low, but there was little to reassure us then.
So we booked a taxi, which made for a comfortable ride, but cost us extra money.
The Stirling bus system is a mix of negatives and positives, which seem to balance each other out.
Passengers not equipped with a student ID have to pay over double the fare of a student discount. It makes sense; those who with less resources shouldn’t be deprived of the simplest means to get around. On the off chance that a good portion of the cost goes towards the driver’s payslip, it all sounds reasonable.
What doesn’t make sense is that if the route extends beyond Stirling council, students have to pay extortionate fares to travel. Part of the price is justified in the free Wi-Fi you wouldn’t dream of seeing anywhere south of Scotland, but surely the extra funds would also be put towards announcements for upcoming stops?
Most students at the University are not from this region, much less this country. We’ve heard of rent prices going nowhere but up, of more parking passes being sold than there are places available.
We are aware that there are issues with university services, but the cost of transport outside the university are inconsiderate of the needs of foreign students, especially when half the system isn’t running the way it should be.
This, of course, refers to the construction works currently holding up train services to Edinburgh and Glasgow at the weekend. Understandable motives to disrupt transport for all, but preferably not to be done during peak season.
The coach to Falkirk High and the subsequent train connection to the Scottish capital could be tolerable, if only (once again), the coach were arranged with announcements for those of us who aren’t familiar with the routes.
Those who think people should learn to take a look around and connect the dots should keep in mind that bus signs in Scotland don’t display location names in a legible fashion, which makes it difficult to decipher where exactly it is we’re meant to get off.
Again, there are positives there, such as the fact that some returns cost the same as a single, which makes little sense but is encouraging for more affordable travel options.
Not to mention, the Uni Link is something to be praised. The route is ideal: Stirling Rail Station to campus. In true Northern fashion, the buses run on hydrogen cells to give the planet a hand. The returns are also affordable with a student ID but my favourite thing is that the night routes (19.00 onwards) run all the way to Alexander Court. Safety guaranteed.