BY JAMES CAMPBELL
A few months back I was driving over a small river bridge in Somerset and saw a bus coming towards me the other side of the bridge.
I thought at the time how ridiculous that such a fat bus was allowed on such a thin, medieval road. I pulled over to the left as far as the wall – along and past the bridge – would physically permit me.
As I left the bridge my right front wheel hit the middle of the bus with a loud bang and I pulled over at the earliest convenience to inspect the damage and exchange details with the bus driver.
My car – a German 4X4 – is a tank. There was only a bit of blue Stagecoach paint on the alloy and my right-wing mirror was slightly less springy than it had been before.
The damage to the bus was more serious. There was a scrape along the middle lower section of the bus where my wheel had hit it and a gouge in the actual metal body of the bus.
An exchange of details with the driver was completed – very cordially – inside the bus. I asked the four passengers on this huge bus (a bus designed for a capacity of 200 people) if they were all OK. They all said they were fine.
The bus driver said his company insurance company would call if there were going to be any claims. He added, “this happens a few times a week and you shouldn’t expect a call.”
I did get a call. There is an ongoing argument about whose fault the crash was.
I pass the same bus driver every day and we wave at each other. We are civil – as most neighbours in the countryside are civil and friendly. Just because our insurers are at loggerheads does not mean we must act any different to normal. We’ll still dig each other out of the snow in a harsh winter.
The point is that the road is too often too thin in the countryside for buses that are fit for purpose in most towns and cities but unfit for medieval country lanes.
I measured the width of my 4X4 and the width of the bus and there was no way in the world both vehicles could have passed at that particular point – on that bend after the bridge.
Why are the big bus companies like Stagecoach and Greenline using their large buses for country routes where few people take the bus?
Why don’t they use the Mercedes Sprinter style buses – which they have in their fleet – to tackle the small country lane routes?
Bus services to country villages play an important role in keeping the countryside open. Many people rely upon these services to get to work or enjoy a day out. These services are invaluable in the summer months for tourism. But why the huge buses that are not fit for purpose on country roads?
It is time the Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling, had a look at this issue.
Buses are simply too fat for British country roads. Period. An apparatchik from the Department of Transport should buy a measuring tape.
A friend in the insurance industry pointed out to me that perhaps the buses are so fat because they know they will generate insurance business. Inevitable crashes mean big business for insurers.
I am no conspiracy theorist and will take what I see as I see it.
Let’s just get the fat buses off country roads, shall we? Time for more slimmed down vehicles. Thereby taking the stress out of country commutes for thousands.