First can kiss my plummy posterior
This, before you all stop reading, is not another piece debating which human organ the ftr most resembles, or how useless the ticket machines are. No, this time aesthetics take a back seat (purchased with exact change) in favour of economics. It emerged last month that the amount of money shelled out by the city council on the new service has risen to over 1.5 million. Allow me to explain how this happened, by way of a cunning analogy.
Imagine that you have owned a car for many years. It has served you well, but is beginning to look a little shabby. You fancy a new car, and, assuming you have the means, you buy one. So far, so reasonable. It would be less reasonable, though, if you had elected to buy, say, a tank, and asked the council to use everyone else’s cash re-surface the roads, widen the lanes and adjust the traffic lights for you while you polished your hubcaps and smirked. Yet York council are doing precisely this for First Group.
Quoth the ftr website: “First are delivering the service however City of York Council are delivering all that is needed to support ftr by providing new technology systems and new road layouts as well as ftr stops and shelters.” What a wheeze that is. No wonder the boys at ftr were allowed to play with whatever concept of the ‘future’ they fancied. If it’s too big for York’s roads and over-designed, never mind: taxpayers can rebuild the city around it.
And whatever line First’s propaganda ministry might like to put about, the ftr is nothing more than a fleet upgrade with a purple hair-dye. Their line about providing ‘the comfort, style and convenience of a tram without the rails’ can be translated for greater brevity as: ‘it’s a bus’. There is nothing wrong with the idea of updating the fleet. But in the case of First – already heavily subsidised, and charging passengers absurd fares relative to distance travelled – to get the taxpayer to fund them a third way for doing it is absurd.
The only thing that would make it less so would be if the ‘partnership’ was a functioning one on both sides. Yet whither First’s ‘service’? One of my favourite pet experiments is to leave friends at the Clifford Street bus shelter, and stroll home along the ftr route. On an unscientifically calculated 67% of such occasions, I’ve got to the end of said route before the bus. My walk takes twenty minutes, suggesting that the ‘up to every ten minutes’ claim proudly emblazoned on ftr’s plummy posterior is more than a little optimistic. This partnership is a patently unequal one.
Maybe this is unfair. It is just possible (in the sense that nothing is impossible) that York taxpayers’ pounds will roll into visible improvements to the service. ‘What improvements?!’ I hear no-one cry. Well, ‘ftr’ to me says jet propulsion, as well as the ability to vaporise oncoming traffic, and at least a primitive molecular transporter system, in case of emergencies. Until this happens, First Group should refuse the council’s money and pay for their own infrastructure as a thank-you for the continued profits they get from the residents whose custom they take for granted. That really would be futuristic.