Monday, April 28, 2008

Catching a bus ... first you need a ticket!

So having utterly failed in last year’s resolution to catch the bus in and out of work at least once a month, I’ll be making up for it this week.

Smartlink card from Translink - journeys that expire not credit

Although I have a Translink Smartlink card, it’s not so smart as the Oyster card that lives in my wallet for transport around London.

For although I’ve unused journeys on the Smartlink card, they expire a certain number of days (three months) after being purchased. Not even after a certain gap in card use. You could use the card on Day X-1, and then find that on Day X it’s useless even if you still had unused credit journeys in it.

If it wasn’t for the Terms and Conditions, you’d be tempted to call it theft.

It’s a system racked up in the favour of Translink and not the customer. Umm. Shouldn’t the purpose of a non-privatised integrated transport company like Translink doesn’t seem to be to run a quality set of integrated transport routes that are customer-focussed, and encourage customers to keep using them.

When I left the house this morning the rain was over so I wandered down to Ballyhackamore’s shops to recharge the card rather than pay over the odds on the bus. But at 8am, the newsagent was closed. Walking further down to the BP filling station that is like Ballyhackamore’s shopping mall with Subway, a Post Office branch and a Spar tucked into it’s forecourt.

But while they’ll sell you a lottery ticket, they haven’t asked for or blessed with a Smartlink terminal. They do cars not buses. (I suppose it is consistent that a business based on filling cars with fuel should avoid making it easy for people to consider the alternatives.)

So I went back to the bus stop and paid my £1.40 at the door (a number 19) before taking a very windy route down North Road towards Central. Sitting at the window upstairs, at least the bus lanes were working to the bus’ advantage!

Does anyone else wish that the Smartlink cards would hold credit rather than just journeys? Or am I the only person who’s infrequent bus usage means that it always expires before I finish a card? Do let me know.

To be continued ...

Update - I posted (emailed) too soon. Hit the button to get off at the next stop. Waited for the bus to pull up for people to get off before Central station, then got up from my seat to go down the stairs. (You’re not encouraged to move around when the bus is moving.)

Half way down the steps, the bus drove off! Though there was another opportunity to get off at the proper bus stop on the other side of the lights.


Timothy Belmont said...

They ought to have a smart-card, like London's Oyster Card - I have one myself and it's great - by now.
Pity the old railway line weren't re-opened, with stations at Knock, Neill's Hill (Sandown Rd) and Bloomfield. That would have made the Experience more tempting!


ex-Londoner said...

Just found this site this morning. All this taljk of conemas and Oyster cards is making me more homesick!

ex-Londoner said...

Please ignore my typos. My 8-month old baby just decided to try and escape from my arms as I was typing!!

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Don't worry about the spullingz ... juggling babies and keyboards is tricky!

And welcome.

ex-Londoner said...

Thank you.

I am new to all this, so still trying to find my way around.

Anonymous said...

And I hope you waved at our lovely falling down house at the corner as you turned into North Road! I get the bus everyday but haven't got round to using the Smart card. For me as a student I can leave after 10am and get the day ticket.

Unknown said...

I estimate I'll have 20+ journeys on my card when it expires on 31 May. Seriously, I am nearly inventing reasons to get on a bus just to get my money's worth. I guess it's a value if you're a hardcore rider, not a weekend warrior like myself. I have friends visiting here in May; wonder if I can use the card for all 4 of us in a single bus journey?


Anonymous said...

Well Translink are just - what's the word? - filth basically, aren't they? They rip off customers in ways you've discovered and other new exciting ways, their staff are reportedly abusive and prejudiced, some of their drivers are frankly dangerous on the roads, they drive into other vehicles and then sue the other driver for the damage caused, and in my own experience, a judge last month called a Translink driver "the most unreliable witness" he had heard in his (20-year-plus) career.

Northern Ireland desperately needs a good public transport system run by a good transport company, and Translink isn't it.

Anonymous said...

JOhn, I'm so encouraged by the new exciting ways to be ripped off by Translink. Was getting used to the familiar ways AiB has outlined. Shall we organise a regular blitz of customer services to complain about them?

Ruth Strong said...

Booooo translink!!!!!! To quote one of the old folkies from church one day:

"I remember when it was sixpence from Banbridge to Ballymena and back on the train - you'd only get halfway to the next bus stop with tuppence these days!"

I said you'd get nowhere seeing as you can't use sixpence these days.

Anways I really don't miss having to get the bus anymore and in fact there are no public buses that come anywhere near our house - i'd have to drive to get to the bus stop and then the amount I'd pay for the ticket I may as well just spend on the petrol!

Anonymous said...

You can use one translink card to pay for more than one person on the same bus. You have to wait about 10 seconds before each swipe.