Bleak F-t-r- for Travel

Claire Moore asks whether the future of travel has really hit the streets of York, in her look at the Ftr buses and their reception from the public

Is it a purple caterpillar? Is it some hideous form of genetically-enhanced duck escaped from the murky depths of the lake? No, it’s The Future, according to First Group Transportation and their now slightly-less-new ftr buses.

The connotations of their ‘ftr-istic’ picture disturb me in more ways than there are pasta meals in an average University student’s lifetime. As a self-confessed grammar purist, I find that the gratuitous removal of the vowels from the word ‘future’ causes acute nausea. So perhaps my reaction is a little extreme, but I am not the only person who feels aggrieved by this abominable abbreviation. Evidently, the First Group ‘powers that be’ are misinformedly trying to lull the hip-‘n’-happening student population into blissful ftr-love by writing in the only language that students understand: ‘text-speak’. Obviously. I’d rate this pretty high on the scale of patronising. I suppose given my predisposition to correct English, it comes as no surprise that I condone the commercial use of text speak as much as I do the Comic Sans font. I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone outside of the Claire’s Accessories pre-teen demographic that would actually decide to actively like a bus purely on the merit of its ability to write in text-speak. I have half a mind to write an angry letter of complaint to the company with all the vowels removed. This would perhaps be a language First would understand: illogical gibberish.

Perhaps though, I have been misled. According to the Facebook group ‘I Hate The New Bus Society’ the letters ftr could in fact be a cunning acronym, designed to subliminally tell us a thing or two about the company. Possible examples include ‘Futile Transport Revolution’, ‘Feeble Tram Replacement’, and my personal favourite: ‘Free To Ride’. Obviously the latter is not a deliberate aim for the company: although it would be nice, the £14.5m cost of the project would not allow it. It seems to me that the majority of this expenditure is entirely redundant anyway. The thinking behind ‘Free To Ride’ originates primarily from the dawn of the Ftr bus creation: a time when exact change was scarce and ‘pilots’ took pity on innocent students and let them ride for free. Oh, and the constant malfunction of the ticket machine, of course. These days it’s more of a reference to the ftr prepay tickets. This is a very well-thought-out plan on First’s behalf given that they hide their ‘pilots’ away behind glass and they have no means of actually stamping anything. Convenient.

Which leads nicely onto the subject of so-called ‘pilots’. Not trained in flying, the ftr pilots must instead undergo rudeness training. In one short journey from Heslington Hall to the station, I have had my ticket checked – by the driver – six times. But hark! Surely the driver’s locked away behind glass? Unfortunately, the glass did not provide enough fortification against driver attack. At every stop along the way he stopped the bus and checked everyone’s tickets. This resulted in a forty-five minute journey to the station and several people missing their trains. More so, the segregation of the driver from the passengers seems antisocial towards people who do not know York. Last week, I witnessed a tourist politely tapping on the glass to ask the driver how to get to the nearest park and ride. The driver angrily de-perched himself and rudely told the man to get off his bus. It’s not just tourists that the pilots mistreat. Also a group of nearly fifty students from Halifax College were ejected from the bus on the grounds that they were “acting like animals”. What provoked this? The driver trying to close the door on a student as he tried to board the bus and his friend pressing the emergency door release to prevent him getting crushed. After this, everyone on the bus was removed and the result was a much increased taxi-use rate that evening.

Ineffective technology and debatable worth aside, the buses do have a certain comedic value, lying predominantly in their aesthetics. Apparently their interior design is based upon a nightclub. Excluding the fact that the seating doesn’t look anything like any nightclub I’ve ever been in, First Group may actually be half way there with this description. Firstly, there’s the bus-stopping noise. Although the traditional ‘ding!’ is a favourite nationwide, First decided to go with a charming little ditty, one which inspires me to dance every time I hear it. And I hear it a lot. Should this noise be considered actual music, then the bus could indeed almost be described as a nightclub. It even has a revolving dance floor (of sorts) in the middle.

And so, it’s time to leave you with a chilling thought. Hang on to your hats (not to mention your loose change) because according to First’s website, ftr buses are going to be awkwardly manoeuvring their way into many other cities around the country very soon. Be very afraid.


  1. so you dont like the new buses, well get a life your only there for a few years, living in cheap accom., and blowing tax payers money, the problem with you students is you think the world owes you a living, First has been marketing the Ftr for over 2 years, and that it would be exact fare but like always you stupid students dont think it appiles to you,

    Over educated and no sence, even when, normal buses, were used on 4 service only a student would ask for a £1, single on tenner a £20 note in the hope to get free travel, as drives have little if not no float, futher more, why is it that when first replace a Ftr with a normal bus do students, look depressed, I can tell you it means the cheap skates have to pay, like i said your only here for a few years some of us live here and have to put up with you iditos

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  2. I’m so glad my school taught me how to spell, otherwise I might have ended up sad and bitter like you! Enjoy your bus, because without students using it you would have a far less frequent service. Then again, since you are probably unemployed you won’t need to go anywhere much! Have a nice day.

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  3. Interesting opinions you have Any C***. Nouse, fortunately, allows people to express their opinions on buses etc. without calling people idiots; which you should be glad of, since if anyone should qualify for the title it would be someone who can’t even spell the word.

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  4. Oh sorry – I spelt a word wrong. Is that what your degree is in? Do you have a BA in spelling? You waste my tax money on drink and then use more of it to complain about a bus that has been in the pipeline for 2 years. Get a life and stop scrounging.

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  5. What a loser! I love the way that Any C*** is incapable of writing a legible sentence! If this bus has been in the pipeline for two years, why is it possibly the most user-unfriendly, money-grabbing pile of shite in the whole world? You’re clearly just jealous that we will have a better life than you can even imagine…

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  6. I agree with Any C***,I my self hate students they keep us awake to the small hours.
    for ever leaving the street a mess pizza boxes keebab wrappings.
    You then claim to have little of no money, then expect us tax payers to keep you.
    You are worse than animals you lot.
    you are scum.

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  7. 10 Dec ’06 at 12:32 am

    Dave Benson Phillips or Tony Blair or someone

    I understand why local York residents have animosity towards a large student population. The point about students causing noise in the early hours and littering neighbourhoods seems true.

    Students that complain constantly about money prior to a £30 binge on alcohol are far too repundant.

    I also think that the general student habit of nights out puking in the street and sleeping with a stranger, punctuated by five minutes picking up a greasy kebab is pathetic. There’s a lot more to student life than drinking heavily, but apparently my view on this is not so widely held. People whose weeks revolve around a facebook-organised drunken outing to Ziggy’s, in order to end up pulling a drunk nobody should realise, once and for all, that they need to get a life, and stop contributing to the lousy reputation that students enjoy.

    However, levelling insults such as “you are scum” is not only stooping low, but it’s also a generalisation. I’ve never eaten a kebab (note the spelling) in my life. I’m a second year history student here; I love York, I consider it home and do not intend to leave after university. It doesn’t help to provoke people like me with insults like that. It certainly won’t result in a sense of community. Clearly you’re a little more bothered, as am I, about a bigger picture than the state of the purple buses. Being frustrated about the continuous need for exact change is a little different from scrounging.

    On the buses themselves, I think that a great deal of the criticism against them has been fair. They regularly turn up late, break down, become fussy about which of your £1 coins they will accept, and add to the general theme in society of less human interaction (god forbid you should be allowed to engage in conversation with the driver) and pointless pieces of technology. I think there’s just a sense that the £300,000 per bus would have been much better spent elsewhere. I wouldn’t mind a few pounds if First is becoming less bothered about how it invests.

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  8. I used to be a driver on the number 4 at York (until late 2004), and what used to really annoy the drivers was the students who used to purchase a £2.05 return to York City Centre, and would always produce a £5, £10 or £20 note, but when asked for the odd 5p would always proclaim to not have any change – so most of us would end up with a 95p due to the students cleaning us out of change.

    Do you always leave all your money in the room, and then head for the bus via the cash point. If you have any brains, you would keep some small change on you, if only for any emergencies that you found your self in.

    Mind you, if you can’t manage to find the correct change to purchase a ticket when the fare is £1.50 single, £2.50 return, how will you cope from next month when the fares will be £1.60 single and £2.80 return!!!!!!

    If you don’t purchase a ticket, then you deserve to get hit by a £50 penalty fare.

    PS There are more camera’s on board the ftr than you think, so if you don’t buy a ticket you can be traced and prosecuted!!!!!!!!

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  9. ‘Traced’ … how exactly? Thats a stupid comment. How about if First made it easier for you and charged £2 instead of £2.05.

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  10. 25 Jan ’07 at 2:06 pm


    Well done mr “B.Clarke, I bet you are sitting at home feeling good about anonymously calling all student “scum”.
    Did you ever stop to think that this so called “scum” will be the people who become Doctors, Engineers, Scientists and fill other vital roles in our country?
    Do you go to the Doctors and think he/she is “scum”?
    People are giving up their youth(!) to try and contribute something to society, and help people, whilst all the time uneducated, people like you sit back and slag us off….
    I hope some young “scum” of a doctor has a small accident with a scalpel, or perhaps a newly qualified engineer will forget to tighten up some nuts and bolts, and a large peice of metal falls upon you…..

    Didnt this start as a discussion about the buses not another excuse to hammer students…….?

    Ive lived in york all my life and used to rely on public transport to get me around the city, i wouldnt even spit on the new buses, THEY are the real waste of taxpayers money……14.5 MILLION POUNDS PEOPLE, and they cant even get a simple ticket machine to work…perhaps they should have ask some uni “scum” to give them a hand, we would have charged them less and got it right first time.!!

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  11. 25 Jan ’07 at 10:08 pm

    think before...

    There are several different issues that have been raised here, and that really shouldn’t be confused.

    1) The complaints about the difficulties faced by the ftr bus (breaking down, ticket machines not working etc.) are perfectly valid. These things are a nuisance not only to the students who use the buses, but also to the York residents and First employees, who shouldn’t have to deal with such basic operation problems on such a regular basis.

    2) The majority of students now not only don’t recieve any Government funding, but pay £3000 a year of their studies and interest on their student loans. Far less tax payers’ money than ever before goes on maintaining students, and as a result less people are going in to higher education.

    3) While some students violate common courtesy on a night out, making too much noise in the middle of the night, it must be remembered: A, that this isn’t intentional, and B, that this is far from being the behaviour of all students. To blame all students for the behaviour of a few is unfair, and the comments have no relevance to the state of the buses.

    4) If the best you have to contribute to a discussion is to be a smartarse about someone’s spelling, particularly in a comment that has been typed quickly and not edited, then you should keep quiet and think more. This kind of arrogance is not going to make anyone in the town or university love you.

    5) It’s a perfectly fair observation to say that £14.5 million is a ridiculous amount to spend on developing new buses, which, aside from being purple, have no advantage over the old ones.

    6) It is also fair to say that rather than spending money developing an unreliable ticket machine and hidden cameras, it might of been better to merely employ more conductors: creating more jobs in York and giving First’s employees greater job security.

    6) That it is also entirely reasonable to expect all bus users to carry roughly correct change, or to purchase a bus pass in advance.

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  12. Dave,

    You ask how you can be traced.

    Well, there are numerous ways – one is to download the cctv and put up photo’s of known offenders in the depot and ask the drivers to look out for them boarding the bus next time and to radio for an inspector.

    Also, the inspectors now carry a palmtop computer, containing the details of every resident of the York area (including the students living on campus), so if you are caught, and give false details, you can be found out.

    Think before,

    1) The drivers have had passed numerous complaints onto the management, and things are improving slowly – the buses are having reliability modifications and the machines are being upgraded.

    5) The £14.5m includes the costs of stop upgrades (including raised kerbs for wheelchair users), traffic light re-phasing , new shelters.

    6) The ftr was designed to operate without conductors, and it is still intended to do so, with the current conductors transferring to other duties, including some going back to their own depots where they are currently being borrowed from, and some staying on, but as roving helpers on all First York services. The hidden cameras are not just there for fare checks, but to provide a complete, safe service for both staff and passengers.

    7) It is reasonable for passengers to carry the correct fare (or most of the correct fare), as I’m a great believer in the old sign that buses used to show “Pay on Entry, Exact Fare Please”. Also I wish more operators would display notices like Blackpool used to – “Change for Notes Not Guaranteed”

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  13. Apparently the conducter’s ticket machines had to be bought from a museum! This is for a bus which has cost £1.5 million.

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  14. Where exactly do they get this mysterious list of everyone’s names? Are you suggesting that every letting agency in York publishes details of their clients… isn’t that illegal? Data protection act, anyone? Unless you’re talking about the freely available electoral roll… pretty useless considering that few students register to vote in York.

    I still do not think it is reasonable for everyone to carry the exact fare. I think that “no notes” is a fair policy – on the old style buses I still cringe when someone (did I say someone? I meant some student, because it is clearly only students who do this…) hands over a £20 note.

    What makes me cringe a million times more though, is when a family get on the ftr. Husband + Wife + 2 children = £6. Please, do not tell me that it is reasonable to carry 4 lots of exact change for every bus journey.

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  15. Maybe if there was somewhere where you could go and get change without having to buy something there wouldn’t be as much of a problem – i rarely use change (I only ever buy things on card usually), and yes i have loads of loose change but its all in 1s and 2s. So maybe if you could could take money out of the cash machine and then there was somewhere (change machine maybe) to go and get change so you can use the bus machine?
    I also wish the cash machines would give out £5 notes – but thats nothing to do with this discussion i think.

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  16. The FTR bus has cost the York tax payer £1.5 million. The Lib Dem Council has now had to put conductors on the buses. Their ticket machines have had to be bought from a museum!

    This year the Lib Dems are cutting £100k from bus stop maintenance – what a great sense of management by the Lib Dem Council!

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  17. SO students think ( say ) there is no where to get change !

    unless they buy some thing !!

    I am pretty sure there is every college has a option for getting change with out buying some thing !!! its called a porters’ lodge !!

    not only the lodge but a change machine bolted to the wall !!!

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  18. great article – made me feel better. first are charging me a £50 fine, because my boyfriend swiped his 10 journey pass twice, for both of us – he’d been told by a first conducter that he could – the dirty scruff ticket inspector yelled at us for a while and said “that’s it now, you’re going to court now”. lovely.

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  19. mishmish

    I am pretty sure if you look on your 10 Journey ticket it states ‘NOT TRANSFERABLE’
    IE you can not double scan it.
    Once again this shows how stupid students are.
    It seems to me that ‘students think the rules do not apply to them’
    so many times I have heard ” You can not touch me I am a student ”
    well not only is it a fine but also a criminal conviction when it goes to court,
    Obtaining Services by deception (fraud )
    stick that on your CRO and you have it for life, no way you will ever get a job as a accountant, or the like, all for the sake of been stupid

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