I have used buses all my life and have a particular love for the old London Transport double-deck 'RT' type. Thousands were built in the late-1940s and early-1950s before it made way for the iconic 'RM' Routemaster. I rode around London on all these buses as a kid and am old enough to have travelled on London trams and trolleybuses. The latter took me to and from work for a year before they disappeared. At the time, although only 18, I thought it a big mistake. When Nottingham opted for the tram I argued with Labour Party colleagues for trolleybuses instead because they would have been cheaper and for the same money the city could have got a network four times as big, but it was not to be. The marketing men and the focus groups showed that trams were, in the words of a senior councillor, 'more sexy' and appealing to men who came to Nottingham in cars.
To say this should not be taken as criticism of what eventually happened. The tram has been a great success and is very much in Nottingham's municipal tradition of being good at managing public transport. There are things I don't like and there have been a few scandals along the way and I won't ever forgive the planners, Nottingham University and the councillors who decided to take half the back gardens on Greenfield Street in Dunkirk instead of following the proposed original line of the Beeston tram extension along East Drive between the Djanolgy Art Centre and Highfield Park. A planning condition was overturned without any public consultation and remains a potent reminder of just how much some so called Labour councillors are in thrall to big business and the universities in our city and treat the city's residents with disdain.
I persuaded Alan Simpson to speak on behalf of Greenfield Street residents at the planning enquiry into the route of the tram and I think of them every time I go along University Boulevard or visit Lakeside, which I do every week, but the tram itself is not responsible for how I feel — which is why I support the Beeston and Clifton extensions.
The City Council needs more powers if it is to manage public transport in Nottingham as well as it could. Ideally, there needs to be a conurbation transport 'supremo'. If the Coalition think we can elect a Nottinghamshire police chief, then why not let us elect someone to run public transport in the county?
Today I watched a NCT '36' and Your Bus 'Y36' following exactly the same route pull away from outside the Victoria Centre on Milton Street together. It happens regularly and is called 'competition'. It doesn't seem that way when you then have to wait 12 minutes for the next bus down the Derby Road to Lenton and, yes, you've guessed it, two arrived and left together. This time a NCT '35' and a 'Y36'. Logic says that we need to manage bus routes in Nottingham just like they do in London by awarding 3–5 year 'contracts' to one bus company for a specific route and if they don't deliver the service they can be fined or even lose the contract. Ideally, of course, we should have just one bus 'mutual' for the city, owned by staff, passengers and local authorities in partnership. I am sure the voters would support this approach given the opportunity and I would happily buy 5% bonds to help finance such a mutual bus company.
Nottingham has much to be proud of when it comes to public transport and I don't doubt the commitment of most Labour councillors to ensuring NCT remains in council ownership. Long may it continue to be so.
Finally, I plan to write in the near future about how trolleybuses may re-appear on our streets, albeit more high-tech and that this is something we should push for in Nottingham on the busy 'Go2' routes.