Tag Archives: transport

BUS, LIGHTS – ACTION

The recent hold-ups on the A6 caused by the roadworks opposite the Health Innovation Campus building site seems to have altered Stagecoach drivers’ behaviour. Previously, the buses as they left the University would take the outside lane on that passage of road that runs parallel with University, letting cars on the inside lane gently filter over. Whilst the temporary lights have been in operation buses have invariably taken the inside lane and proceeded to hurtle towards the lights at great speed. While some may appreciate the early holiday experience of subsequent blaring horns and squealing tyres, most passengers looked perplexed. Your correspondent did wonder how the much heralded driverless buses would react faced with such an obstacle and presumably an in-built programmed schedule. It also made your correspondent speculate (some of the jams at the lights were quite lengthy) how the new driverless cars would cope navigating the highways and byways of Lancaster. On any journey around the city you encounter cars parked on one or both sides of the road. Negotiating the subsequent oncoming traffic then involves the ritual of flashing headlights and waving of hands followed by the salute signifying ‘thank you’. Your correspondent had visions of Lancaster being gridlocked as autonomous vehicles struggled to cope with the etiquette of ‘giving way’. Not a nice thought as you trundle home from work.

BUS EVACUATION

On April 29, 1975, Operation Frequent Wind saw the evacuation of those Americans who remained is Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history — an 18-hour operation that carried 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese to safety (or to escape the people’s justice, depending on your point of view).

Let’s talk about Roses weekend, and the associated difficulties getting to and from campus.

For those members of staff who use public transport, leaving campus last Friday was a fraught affair. Roses weekend necessitated (for whatever reason) the closure of Bigforth Drive, which meant that number 2 buses would not be running from the underpass. There was no indication as to where the buses WOULD run from (if at all), and no details of when the last bus would be setting off.

What to do? Your intrepid correspondent knew that such an exit would be complicated by the hold-ups on the A6 caused by the roadworks opposite the Health Innovation Campus building site. Should he leave shortly after arriving to avoid being trapped on Campus over the weekend? Or should he risk carrying on shredding confidential documents and deleting incriminating emails until the very last minute and be on that last bus leaving the University?

Instead of Jolly Green Giants, as the choppers out of Saigon were known, Stagecoach’s Big Red Double Deckers were our means of exodus. Travellers weren’t sure that Stagecoach staff would not be deployed, as U.S. Marines had been to smash the fingers of desperate Vietnamese trying to make it over the wall of the Embassy to safety, to restrict University staff trying to make it onto the overcrowded last bus.

When your correspondent managed to board one of the double-deckers, he found himself surrounded by evacuees nervously fingering their bags and frantically texting loved ones. As the bus left the underpass, thousands of people could be seen moving towards the road, as marshals (or marines – it was difficult to tell in the moment) closed in with barriers.

A few days later, news reached the subtext warehouse of further calamity as innocent visitors, having thought they were just ‘getting the number 2 to campus’, found themselves unceremoniously dumped outside Cartmel and told the bus wouldn’t be travelling any further.

subtext would like to hear any accounts from travellers caught in the thick of the operation. For this correspondent it was a close thing – something that could have been avoided by actually publishing the time of departure.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

Your travel correspondent was unfortunate to be travelling up to work last week (8th February) when the bus broke down. Distinct smell of burning as the bus croaked its last at St. Martin’s bus stop. The driver ushered everyone off and folk milled around wondering what to do. It was actually a nice warm day so for your correspondent the journey was completed on foot – a very pleasant stroll along the meandering cycleway. However lighting struck twice and this week (13th February) another journey, another breakdown and an altogether different outcome. It was pouring with rain so the dis-embarked passengers stood under the shelter and umbrellas to await the next bus. It was not long in coming but of course it was already quite full – the driver of the newly arrived bus was very calm and packed us all on as best he could. Lots of steam emanating from soaked passengers but everyone was jolly nice to one another and we all poured out at the underpass and went on our various ways. See, not all travel stories end badly!

VALUED MEMBERS OF STAFF

In the last edition of subtext we reported on the problems of staff on termly contracts and their inability to get a staff bus pass. subtext has learnt of similar problems concerning hourly paid teaching staff who drive to work, and although we have historically avoided publishing stories about parking, we felt this one needed some further discussion on the grounds that a group of staff who are already marginalised and on insecure contracts were being treated unfairly.

Teaching staff attending the security building to renew their staff parking permit for the academic year were somewhat shocked to be told that unlike last year, they are no longer eligible for a staff permit. No prior warning, no correspondence informing them of this change in policy. Despite offering to pay the same amount as they had paid last year – and perhaps more importantly, the same amount as other staff still pay (!) – they were told that they are not eligible for a staff permit and would have to park ‘at the bottom end of the campus’.

The fact Lancaster University is situated on a hill is coincidental but this is highly symbolic; those ‘at the top’ (i.e. ‘proper’ staff) were deemed to be worthier in that they are given the ‘right’ to park in a more convenient location, over those ‘at the bottom’. For those staff, the issue with parking ‘at the bottom’ is not related to laziness but is more about feelings of inequality and the apparent power imbalance.

Why is it that these staff are no longer eligible? Is it because they are not ‘full-time’ members of staff. No. So it must be because they are ‘part-time’ members of staff. Well, no. Apparently the explanation given is that due to a lack of parking and over-subscription for permits, a review (which was not communicated to those concerned) had concluded that restrictions needed to be made and teaching staff who are also undertaking a PhD were the group to be targeted for cut backs. Staff-students have been discriminated against over both full-time and part-time staff who are not studying alongside their teaching. Essential teaching staff are vital for our Part I delivery and are apparently valued members of the research community when we tell stories during our strategic reviews and in our REF narratives. Welcome to the inclusive academic community.

Oh, and for those members of staff (regardless of status) who don’t have a permit at all, it seems there has been another price hike. The car park by the tennis courts has tripled in price from £1 per day to £3 per day. Thus endeth our gripe about parking.