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Farewell annual System 1. You, and your monthly predecessors, have served me well these past twelve years. You got me through a particularly nasty and protracted bus war on the 192 route between 2006 and 2007, gave me access to the excellent TP bus service, a plethora of services running between Stockport and Macclesfield (admittedly, you only permit travel as far as Poynton, but still…) and Middlewood, not to mention the now no longer running but delightfully eccentric 62A service. In addition, you have ensured that I never have to pay extra to travel to Lyme Park.

I will miss you tremendously, and despite living in an area where Stagecoach have the monopoly on all my bus routes, I will, at times, make use of your System 1 Day Rider sibling to travel beyond my usual locations.

I first started buying the day version of the System 1 when I was working as a casual across Stockport in the mid 2000’s. Most of the places I’d be working were covered by bus routes run by Stagecoach, but if I was travelling to High Lane or Marple then, chances were, I’d be using Skyline, Bowers, or another company whose name I forget who were running the 394 and 391 at the time. And possibly Stagecoach if I ended up on the 375. To maximise all possibilities of optimum travel smoothness (always a bit of a pipe dream in Greater Manchester where imagination, ingenuity and prayer tend to be more common approaches to travel than any notion of an integrated public transport network) if I was travelling between Hazel Grove and Marple or Hazel Grove and High Lane, I needed a System 1 day rider, not a Megarider or Stagecoach Day Rider.

I appreciate this might sound a bit odd to any London readers, but if you’ve grown up with deregulated buses, privatised railways and a thoroughly un integrated public transport network, this is normal. I was a veteran of three bus wars on my local bus route before I was thirty.

What is a a bus war? A bus war occurs when two (or more…) bus companies decide that they would both like to run buses on a (usually very lucrative) bus route. This is not the same phenomena as a bus company ditching a route it can no longer make a profit on and the local council (or councils) then having to find another company willing to run buses on the route through a system of council subsidy. The two phenomena are related though.

Anyway, bus wars. Within the Greater Manchester area, most of the routes are tied up by Stagecoach, though First and Finglands also run a lot. Within Stockport, it’s mostly Stagecoach. At the time of the last 192 bus war (2006-2007) there were approximately ten different bus companies operating in Hazel Grove, thanks to it’s unique geographical location (it’s in Stockport but also borders Cheshire and Derbyshire) but the main bus route between Hazel Grove and Manchester, the 192, was run by Stagecoach.

Ever since bus deregulation in the 1980s, Stagecoach have had competition on this route. Firstly from GM buses, who they won the route off at the start of deregulation, then later UK North, then – lastly – an amalgamation of the two companies.

The 2006-2007 bus war on the 192 route led to both Stagecoach and UK North flooding the route with buses, a lot of aggressive driving practices (using two buses to block a rival bus in at a bus stop while another bus zipped ahead on the route to collect customers at the next few stops was a favourite), and the snarling up of Manchester city centre, not to mention increased traffic and pollution on the A6 between Manchester and Hazel Grove.

From a passenger point of view, a number of bus users were actively abusive to the (largely) Polish drivers recruited by UK North, who were themselves being exploited in a number of ways by their employer, and – since UK North were regularly the only one of the two companies on the route willing to run buses between Manchester and Hazel Grove (as opposed to the ‘part route’ options of going as far as Stockport or Stepping Hill) I was having to pay extra every night to get home from work.

After about a month of this, I invested in a monthly System 1. Which meant I could either get a UK North 192 from Manchester to Hazel Grove without having to pay extra, or get any 192 to Stockport bus station and get the Buxton bus to Hazel Grove without having to pay extra (I worked evenings so the Macclesfield and Middlewood buses weren’t a option at this point as they knocked off by half 5 or 6pm every night). Stagecoach were occasionally running 192’s on the whole route at this time, but you had to wait ages sometimes (like, half an hour or more some nights) so it was worth paying extra in order to get the first bus that turned up. There was the added bonus that the money from the System 1 went to Transport For Greater Manchester (who run the scheme) not to Stagecoach, who I felt very aggrieved towards at the time.

The 192 bus war finally ended in 2007 following an accident involving a UK North bus (not a 192, on another route) in which a man died. UK North were subsequently stripped of their licence and later banned from operating for life.

In the interests of balance, I should also point out that Stagecoach were banned from operating in Manchester city centre for a period in 2007 as a result of ‘bullying’ behaviour towards other operators in a different bus war. As such, neither side could be regarded as angels.

As for the Polish bus drivers who lost their jobs when UK North folded, many of them went on to work for Stagecoach.

Transport For Greater Manchester discontinued the annual System 1 last year. I did look into buying monthly System 1’s instead but the cost over the year was eye wateringly high. And so, with a heavy heart, I am now back to owning a Stagecoach only Megarider, albeit with the caveat that I’m not going to let it put me off travelling on non Stagecoach routes. I still want to go for walks in Lyme Park every now and then for a start, and that requires a System one or a ticket for Skyline.

 

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On Saturday 15th July, at Stockport Quaker House, Stockport For Peace and Stand Up To Racism Stockport will be holding a workshop on the theme of ‘Having Difficult Conversations Around Migration’. The event is held in conjunction with Hope Not Hate, and runs from 10am – 3pm.

On Wednesday 19th July, Dave Randall will be talking about his new book ‘Sound System: The Political Power Of Music’ at the Working Class Movement Library between 2pm and 3pm.

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PTDC0002

Located just past the junction of Belmont Way and Wellington Road North. Once again, my camera is displaying completely the wrong date on it.

 

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Stockport Garrick Theatre will be doing a production of Amelia Bullmore’s excellent Di and Viv and Rose until 4th February.pzgmnnwiow_285104_1474728963

I’m very excited about this because it’s such a great play, with three strong, complex female lead characters.

The story begins with three very different girls meeting at university in the early 1980s and follows their developing, and changing, relationships through university, afterwards, up until the 2000s. It’s funny, it’s sad, but above all, it’s complex and moving and never feels trite.

The debut performance in the US last year featured a custom made soundtrack by the US band Tomboy, which is still available to buy, and which features a suitably exuberant version of Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’.

It’ll all make sense when you see the play…

 

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Thanks to Manchester Histories Festival for this:

Manchester Histories is pleased to be working in partnership with Stockport Council to present the Picture Stockport project.
Follow the trail of 22 images displayed across Stockport town centre and vote for your favourite artwork of the borough.
Find out more and vote from 12th Jan – 12th Feb 2017 at picturestockport.com #picturestockport

I’ve had a look and there’s some really good ones, across all sorts of artistic styles. Some are surreal, some are Lowry like, some are almost like collages… Well worth checking out and voting for your favourite.

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Item 1: A car driving down the A6 at dinnertime with about a third of a fir tree sticking out of the passenger window

Item 2: About 5 seconds later, noticing that the hairdresser opposite was cutting hair while wearing full Santa fig.

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I genuinely thought that I was done with writing about the EU Referendum yesterday but, alas, it is not done with me…

Not having a smartphone I’ve been generally immune to the constant cycle of rolling news, petitions, social media updates, and collective hysterical meltdown. Or “chaos” as The Economist put it. But, like a fool, I decided to have a look at The Guardian while I was on dinner today.

I really don’t know why I still read The Guardian. It’s an occasional read, and I generally come away from their website feeling thoroughly frustrated and alienated. It seems increasingly to be written for the populations of Southwark, Hackney, Islington and Shoreditch exclusively. I had hoped for some sense from them this time, given the graveness of the situation post Brexit announcement, but no…

I knew about some of the petitions because I had emails yesterday about the TUC one and the Make Votes Matter one, plus a colleague had told me about the one for a second referendum, which the UK press have got all over their pages today. The Guardian also mentioned the one on Change.org for London to declare itself independent from the rest of the UK.

It was this last one that got me.

For several reasons…

To begin with, it is a slightly weird example of life imitating art because Radio 4 did a mock documentary last year on London declaring independence from the rest of the UK, and how they thought it might pan out.  Maybe they could organise a repeat of this in the light of recent events?

Secondly, James O’Malley, who started the petition, makes a number of sweeping statements in his summary, particularly this one:

Let’s face it – the rest of the country disagrees. So rather than passive aggressively vote against each other at every election, let’s make the divorce official and move in with our friends on the continent.

Whoa… hang on a minute there!

The rest of the country disagrees?!?

Has he cobbled this petition together without even looking at the breakdowns of which towns and cities voted for which option?

If we take the Greater Manchester area, the results were as follows:

Bolton: Leave by 51.89% to 48.11%

Bury: Leave by 54.12% to 45.88%

Manchester: Remain by 60.36% to 39.64%

Oldham: Leave by 60.86% to 39.14%

Rochdale: Leave by 60.07% to 39.93%

Salford: Leave by 56.81% to 43.19%

Stockport: Remain by 52.33% to 47.67%

Tameside: Leave by 61.14% to 38.86%

(All statistics gained using the widget on the Manchester Evening News referendum coverage)

This means that Manchester and Stockport form an island of Remain in a sea of Leave, handily complicating Mr O’Malley’s theory that everyone except London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Leave. Oh, and Trafford voted Remain as well: 57.7% to 42.3% so maybe we’re not so alone…

If we look at the London councils, and their results, using the Manchester Evening News widget again:

Well, for a start, London has 33 councils, not 8, so it’s not a fair comparison. That said, of those 33 councils, 5 of them voted for Leave. Which, while still a minority, blows a hole in Mr O’Malley’s argument. What’s he going to do? Expel those five councils, or take them hostage in the same way that Scotland (where every council voted in) and Northern Ireland (ditto) have been taken hostage by the rest of the UK?

Similarly, Wales is being written about as though the entirety of Wales voted to leave. This simply isn’t true: Cardiff voted to Remain by a margin of 60.02% to 39.98%, should it now, as the Welsh capital, declare independence from the rest of Wales?

Cardiff may have been in the minority but it wasn’t the only bit of Wales to vote Remain: Ceredigion did by 54.6% to 45.4%, Gwynedd also voted for Remain by 58.1% to 41.9%, and Glamorgan voted for Remain by 50.7% to 49.3%. Incidentally, Bristol voted Remain by 61.7% to 38.3%, so at least there’s a friend across the bridge…

If you want a snappy soundbite: Medway voted Leave, Manchester voted Remain, and Medway is a helluva lot nearer to London, geographically speaking, so blaming it all on the savages north of Watford just won’t stand.

Similarly: Leeds, York and Newcastle all voted Remain.

You can see a full breakdown of all the local results over on the BBC, and it’s easier than using the MEN widget.

In conclusion, while a certain amount of panic, anger, and looking for someone to blame is inevitable in these times. Can we all, please, do a little bit more research and preparation before we start slinging the mud about?

Scotland and Northern Ireland have both, in their very different ways, begun to explore the feasibility of remaining in the EU and/or gaining independence from the rest of the UK. Given that every council in Scotland and every council in Northern Ireland voted Remain, this is completely understandable. The fact that Belfast central post office today ran out of passport application forms (fact: As part of the Good Friday Agreement, those in Northern Ireland are entitled to both Irish and British passports) reflects this move.

But Mr O’Malley is basing his plea for an Independent London on the financial district, which, ironically, proved to be the downfall of the newly independent London as imagined by Radio 4 last year. This ended with another financial crash which London, now independent, had to absorb entirely on it’s own while the remainder of the UK looked on unmoved, shrugged, and got back to it’s growing manufacturing industries.

Appendix:

Full list of London council results, garnered using the MEN widget:

Barking and Dagenham: Leave by 62.44% to 37.56%

Barnet: Remain by 62.23% to 37.77%

Bexley: Leave by 62.95% to 37.05%

Brent: Remain by 59.74% to 40.26%

Bromley: Remain by 50.65% to 49.35%

Camden: Remain by 74.94% to 25.06%

City of London: Remain by 75.29% to 24.71%

Westminster: Remain by 68.97% to 31.03%

Croydon: Remain by 54.29% to 45.71%

Ealing: Remain by 60.40% to 39.60%

Enfield: Remain by 55.82% to 44.18%

Greenwich: Remain by 55.59% to 44.41%

Hackney: Remain by 78.48% to 21.52%

Hammersmith and Fulham: Remain by 70.02% to 29.98%

Haringey: Remain by 75.57% to 24.43%

Harrow: Remain by 54.63% to 45.37%

Havering: Leave by 69.66% to 30.34%

Hillingdon: Leave by 56.37% to 43.63%

Hounslow: Remain by 51.06% to 48.94%

Islington: Remain by 75.22% to 24.78%

Kensington and Chelsea: Remain by 68.69% to 31.31%

Kingston-Upon-Thames: Remain by 61.61% to 38.39%

Lambeth: Remain by 78.62% to 21.38%

Lewisham: Remain by 69.86% to 30.14%

Merton: Remain by 62.94% to 37.06%

Newham: Remain by 52.84% to 47.16%

Redbridge: Remain by 53.97% to 46.03%

Richmond-Upon-Thames: Remain by 69.29%

Southwark: Remain by 72.81% to 27.19%

Sutton: Leave by 53.72% to 46.28%

Tower Hamlets: Remain by 67.46% to 32.54%

Waltham Forest: Remain by 59.10% to 40.90%

Wandsworth: Remain by 75.03% to 24.97%

 

 

 

 

 

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