Does the 724 run on time

Why does the Arriva 724 bus service between Harlow and Heathrow never run on time?

Why doesn’t the 724 run to the timetable?

Why is the Arriva Harlow to Heathrow bus service invariably late more times than it is on time?

Why is one or more runs cancelled at short notice without any warning?

Why do Arriva not publish punctuality and performance figures for the 724 bus service?

These questions came back to me yesterday whilst waiting with my daughter and two grandchildren at Hertford Bus Station. They were hoping to catch the 10.20am bus to St Albans. It was an unusually chilly morning and the bus did not arrive until 10.50am. Considering that Hertford is near the beginning of what is admittedly a long route and the bus is scheduled to leave Harlow at 9.50am this is a very lengthy delay. Naturally there was no word of apology or explanation from the driver.

This bus in particular is often late as is the 10.07am from St Albans to Hertford. Sometimes neither of these services run at all. It is not just these particular timings but across the whole timetable.

Whilst biding our time counting buses we noticed that the 724 to Harlow service came in at 10.25am about the time that one might expect the 724 to Heathrow service. This was not an optical illusion. Various passengers did ask the driver if he could be the late running 10.20 724 to Heathrow and even offered him a small gratuity to do so. But no, he was on the way to Harlow.

This is also quite odd as either he was the late running 9.56 am service or the extremely early running 11.01am service. Having some experience of waiting for the 724 at Welwyn Garden City bus station and/or QEII hospital I was at best confused.

I know that this is a long route covering Hertford, Welwyn Garden City, St Albans, Watford and on to Heathrow but it is of not help to anyone waiting along the route.

There are few east/west services anyway and the only alternative my daughter has is to take a University bus to Welwyn and then a 300 to St Albans.

Fine you may say, but not so easy with two boys of two and half years old and one year old in a pushchair with bits of shopping and changing bags etc etc.

It might make things a bit easier to bear if there was up to date information. The information board at Hertford is placed on the service yard wall and not actually under the covered area of the bus station. It is no more than an electronic version of the paper timetable displayed behind the glass cabinets attached to the brickwork. The board does not display delays and once the appointed time for a bus arrival or departure has passed the number is wiped away completely

Why can’t the bus operators or the bus authority which is I suppose Hertfordshire County Council invest in a system which works very well in London whereby the running times of all routes is displayed with any delays or cancellations on a screen built into the bus stop itself?

I don’t know the answer although I suppose it has its roots (sorry for the pun) in finance or lack of; or a total inability to run a modern service. They can’t even make up their minds what to do about subsidies towards loss making bus routes which provide a vital service for the old, infirm and disadvantaged groups. This decision has been deferred until 2015 so we can still get on a bus after 6.30pm. Yippee!!

Whilst sheltering from the sprightly November wind my daughter said that there as no other real option but to learn to drive. I support her in this. But you can see where this is going. One less passenger, one more car, less bus services owing to lack of passengers, fares rise, more car owners and so on ad infinitum until the powers that be have it all their own way and no more have to pay for a public service such as buses. One more headache solved. But not for my daughter with two tired children and a rather exasperated father and grandfather.

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By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.