I Wanna Ride The Bus!

Friday, March 03, 2006

I wanna bus ticket!

Unlike in London, where the buses are regulated, so there's a common ticket policy throughout the whole of London which goes along the lines of here's a bus, here's the flat fare, there's a large number of operators here who all have their own ticketing policy. Some buses are cheaper than others, and some are expensive.

To try and flatten the differences, GMPTE, like other PTE bodies have their own tickets available for the public to buy. Except here, the PTE has distanced itself from dealing with most tickets, and left it to it's subsidary "System One Travel Cards" and it's their name that appears on the buses, not GMPTE. Other areas seem to have been able to handle a multitude of operators better than here, but I digress.

As a bus user, if I want a bus season ticket to cover me on any bus anywhere in the area I need what's called a Bus Saver. It costs 47 pounds for a month, no that's changed, 28 days, and it's a pretty good deal. I use multiple operators, so it's far better value than getting an individual bus company's equivalent ticket.

I used to be able to walk up to my post office, show my "Club" photo ID card, and say to the nice person behind the desk: "A monthly bus saver please" and hand over 47 quid and get a nice bit of cardboard in exchange. Or, I could walk to one of the travelshops (GMPTE bus information / sales place at most of the big bus stations,) and do the same. Not as convenient as my local post office, as I don't live next to the bus station - otherwise I wouldn't need the bus!

Sounds easy and straightforward, and it was. It worked well. There's a lot of post offices in the area, and I never had any trouble getting a bus saver from any of the ones I tried. However there's been a bit of meddling, and since Feb 17th, one now has to use a PayPoint outlet. The Post Office isn't a PayPoint outlet, but my corner shop (which is nearer) is.

So a couple of weeks ago, it was time to get a new bus saver. I popped out to the post office to get a new one, to be told that I needed to go to a pay point outlet.

I went home, then out to the pay point but left the ID card at home. They could issue the ticket but needed the card number to put on the machine. They didn't know what I was asking for at first, but after a little bit of searching, to their credit, they did find it and we did agree on what I needed. There was no talk about needing anything other than the photo card, and I duly left empty handed.

I renewed the card at the new city centre bus station that dosen't serve all the routes that take in Manchester city centre, Shudehill. (That'll be the subject of another post.)

They punched the details into a yellow PayPoint machine, and in exchange for my 13.50 (a week's ticket this time,) I got a bit of flimsy paper stuck in a blue sticky-back plastic wallet type thing. Something my corner shop didn't have.

So I asked my corner shop if they had any of the wallets for the bus tickets (and I showed them mine.) They asked if that was what I had asked for, and said that they didn't have the blue wallet. Why did I need one? The wallets have a bit of wavy luminous orange on them, probably to show the bus driver the bit of flimsy paper hasn't been fiddled with.

I took the bus to the famous Bury market (that's any bus from home that goes to the Shudehill and a 135 from Urbis) and popped into the travelshop on the way back. I explained my problem and asked if I really needed the blue wallet type thing. "Yes" was the response. Could I have a couple of the blue wallet type things so I could buy my ticket from the corner shop? "No" Can my corner shop sell the bus savers? "Is it a paypoint?" "Yes," say I. "Yes, they can sell you one." "So can I have a couple of those blue wallet type things so they can put the ticket in there when I buy one from them?" I plead. "No, and they shouldn't be selling them if they haven't got the blue wallets." was the response.

Back at home, I checked the GMPTE and System One websites. While they're very pleased to say that I can use one of 600 paypoints in the area to get a bus saver, there's nothing about the blue wallet type things being needed.

How many people are getting caught out by this?

I wasn't for getting caught out. I tried (in vain) to see if the post office had any excess monthly tickets left over, but they all had to go back, so I was forced to use a travelshop. It looked like half of Manchester had the same problem, as the queue was out of the door at the Piccadilly Gardens one.

I think the queue was a common thing, as signs were up saying that you could beat the queue by walking over to Shudehill and getting one there, with directions. I can admit that Shudehill's very, very quiet (probably because the buses people use don't go there,) but who is really going to walk across the city centre, buy what they want then walk all of the way back?

Paypoints more convenient? Don't make me laugh.

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