The Prenton Circular bus route, here in Birkenhead, is dangerous and potentially lethal – this, my recent experience with it, is why:-
Yesterday (Monday, January 26), I boarded the inbound 11.55(ish), 90 bus (Prenton Circular), not far from home. I’m disabled, and walk with difficulty and with the aid of a crutch; I also have a disabled persons’ travel pass. My status, then, was perfectly clear to the driver. Who, as subsequent events showed, cared not one iota.
Before I was able to find a seat (the seats on this service are wholly inadequate for two adults, and the closest available empty seat was rather more than half-way down the bus), I was hurled violently to the floor as the driver accelerated viciously away from the stop without waiting to see if I was seated. I received injuries to my left knee and hip, left shoulder, arm and hand, and to my back. Bruising and pulled muscles mainly, though no less painful for that, and I consider myself to have been extremely lucky – had I not, fallen on my back, things would have been a lot worse, I have no doubt. I’d barely had time to get a slight hold on a handrail, which was enough to spin me round when the bus jolted violently into motion, though it also caused me to smash my knee against a seat support, and wrench my shoulder and hip – at least in meant I didn’t hit the floor face-first, though. All of which has put me back in my wheelchair, at least for now. I’m hoping to be able to get to my doctor tomorrow, if I’m more mobile.
I didn’t get so much as an “Are you OK?” from the driver, incidentally – he just stayed in his seat, whistling (he was, I have to confess, roundly abused – I was hurt and distressed, not to mention filthy, entirely due to his reckless actions; it was the least he deserved – my apologies, though, to the other passengers), while other passengers tried to pick me up (not easy, as I have very little strength in my arms, and even less in my legs). The bus, incidentally, has a conspicuous notice warning passengers to remain seated while the bus is in motion. Logic – and basic common sense – dictates that this principle should also apply to the driver – he should not set the bus in motion until all passengers are seated. Especially disabled passengers.
The main problem here, after that of incompetence, is the bus route itself. This, to my certain knowledge, has been extended twice. The first time, some years ago, was in Oxton Village, at the instigation of the Oxton Society, I believe, when it was routed away from Palm Hill and sent down Claughton Firs – Bennett’s Hill – Bessborough Road – Christchurch Road – Balls Road instead, to rejoin the route at Palm Grove. More recently the route was extended again, instead of its previous stop at Birkenhead Bus Station, it now goes down to Woodside, and back. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, which is probably most of you,, that’s added at least a mile to the route, maybe a tad more, on some of the busiest roads in the town.
Despite all this, the timetable has remained unchanged, and this is why I believe the route is inherently dangerous – there just isn’t time, unless traffic is unusually light, to drive it in a manner both safe, for passengers and other road users, and legal. Or, let me put it another way – if it is possible it is not, in my experience, happening.
That the bus company, and Merseytravel, are putting at risk the safety of their passengers, through failing to revise the timetable when the route was extended, as are the drivers by their actions, is simply unacceptable (and, of course, the drivers are putting their own licenses at risk). It was only a matter of time before someone was injured on this route (although perhaps others have been, I don’t know).
I shall not, for my own safety and peace of mind, be using this service again, unless something changes for the better (drivers who don’t drive as if they’re auditioning for a Formula 1 seat would be a good place to start), and I am by no means confident that this will happen, though I have written to Merseytravel, today, in a similar vein.