The bus service . . . on strike or not?

The 688 Bus Service Timetable

In deeply rural areas like Allendale and the East Allen Valley, the only transport that links isolated hamlets with the town (Hexham and then Newcastle upon Tyne) is the bus. We’re fortunate to have a regular and useful service, though the times have been cut to the bone.

But you can still catch the bus in Sparty Lea say, at around 9:45 of a weekday morning, stop off at Allendale for an hour’s worth of errands, and then at 11:15 jump on for several hours at Hexham, coming back home on the 3:30 bus from the new station beside the hospital. Really, quite convenient, and very useful indeed, especially if you’re in a position to have a bus pass.

Otherwise, as we’ve noted in the diary earlier, it’s private vehicles all the way. Some of us take that luxury for granted, but for others, the bus service is a life saver.

The 688 bus on the way up to Allenheads (from a stock photo)

So the strike action threatened for January by members of the Unite union, for Arriva bus services throughout the northeast, and commencing today for the coming week, does elicit fear and trembling for dependent passengers; it seems to be an action over safety guards on trains, but it’s extended throughout the whole Arriva network, apparently, in solidarity. Will our 688 bus arrive, or will it no? Go-NorthEast transport service contacted by ‘phone and by live chat this morning insists it will. Next bus scheduled for 12:38 southwards or 12:53 northwards from Sparty Lea. During this blustery wet weather, I shall watch out for it from our fellside kitchen window. Right on schedule, up towards Allenheads it goes! [Whew!]

Rural bus services like the 688 are subsidised, of course, by the county councils — the 688 with its isolated passengers is never going to be commercially viable. I always try to remember that when I think about grumbling over this and that charge levied by the council — in these years of austerity, we car-owners can be grateful that folks more vulnerable than ourselves have some services, still.

So, in terms of the Arriva strike, it’s clear that at some point on this long and seemingly never-ending ‘austerity arc’, something is going to give, and the cries of anguish will be traumatic to witness. Without gainsaying either the strike action or the transport company, everyone just hopes that ‘our service’ will continue to be unaffected, and also that normal service for our neighbours throughout the northeast will return soon.

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