Night bus or drunk bus?

Night Bus (Sheffield)

Cardiff Council’s “Economy & Culture scrutiny committee” this week released a report digging into Cardiff’s night time economy, putting forward some recommendations that will go to the council’s executive meeting later this year.

- Calls for a clear strategy and management of the night time economy

- Better enforcement of licensing and other rules in the city centre by officers

- Business signing up to a ‘standard’ for customer services

- Investment in opening up the city centre at night for family and culture events

- Improved public transport links to allow people to get home without relying on taxis

I see improving the transport infrastructure after 11pm as the second most important point of the five, after the development of a strategy and management structure, which the city is sorely lacking at the moment, and which I believe is the main reason that our city goes adult after dark, and is a staple on the Bravo programme “Booze Britain” (which I was actually on once, but that’s a different story).

Many cities have bus services that run through the night, London, Reading, Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh; it really isn’t a ground breaking idea, nobody will earn any medals for innovation in implementing it.

Not long ago, Cardiff used to have bus services that ran after 11pm and I remember it well, for the fact that I refused to use it. It was around at the time I was in my late teens to early twenties, out on the town most Friday or Saturday nights, the service should have been perfect for me.

However, the service had a particular target of passengers and was run solely with that in mind, and I did not fit into this group.
It was specifically targeted at the pissed up revellers, and run like a big smelly, testosterone filled crèche.

The buses would run from the drinking hot-spot at St Mary Street (Westgate Street), call at Greyfriars Rd (another road filled with bars) and then make no stops until it got to the area that it was designated, and even then it would only make one or two stops for alighting passengers. They essentially functioned as big private-hire minibuses, waiting for everybody to get on and then pulling away (perhaps never to return?).

The services were a “special service”, different to daytime buses, and users treated it as such. Almost every person on it, especially as it got later into the night, would be jumping around, shouting at random persons, throwing things, generally making it a very uncomfortable ride. The perception that these were “drunk buses” was exacerbated by the fact that there was no return journey, nor any pick-ups or drop-offs on the way. They might as well have walked down St Mary Street banging a drum, shouting “Bring out yer drunks!”.

In the other cities that I mentioned previously the services run as an extension to the normal services, making almost the same journeys, just less frequently. The daytime bus service never really finishes, it just transforms, and the customers see it as they normally would and this in turn affects their behaviour towards it. They aren’t seen by the majority as “drunk tanks”, and are used by shift workers, something I don’t think many could imagine of the L8 Bus service that Cardiff Bus used to run.

So, Cardiff Council and Cardiff Bus, if you really want to improve the “night time economy”, don’t segregate it into categories and cater for only a certain type of “reveller” (I hate that word, when I go out I don’t “revel” as far as I know), the drunk who needs to get home and doesn’t want to stump up for a taxi.