Monday, 2 May 2011

You Dirty RATP

Whilst for us single blokes, the lasting legacy of the Royal Wedding is our acquaintance (at least via TV) and future relationship-status-checking with Pippa Middleton, for us transporty-types the build up to the big day allowed those of us perusing the rolling news channels to look a bit further than the news-hound (or hound-ess) presenter to the passing red buses outside Westminster Abbey. Yes, one knows one does take ones enthusiasm for public transport a tad too far.....(indeed I ended up tweeting the fact that I'd seen a Norwood Garage Trident on Route 2 held up whilst the Bride's Mother left for the nuptials - a fact also not missed amongst the anorak Twitter followers I have......)

So why the title?

Well, amongst the 24s "going green" outside the Abbey, we regularly witnessed something that maybe wasn't so quintessentially British amongst the proceedings.

Daily Mail readers have already seen the splutterings of one of their journos - the very brass-necked-ness of the French! For those who aren't aware, the French state organisation RATP - Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens - which in English translates into Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports, now operates what used to be Transdev's London United operation in TfL land. Ironically, Transdev were French, and equally ironic has been the return of the "London United" name, which disappeared off the sides of their buses.

But this hasn't stopped the cries of "le fowl" amongst the "disgusted of TfL land".

The logo even attempts to show the River Seine flowing through France's Capital.

It's all a far cry from when the anonymous suits in 55 Broadway ran everything.

But is all of this a large Gaelic hullabaloo about nowt?

The descendants of the 55 Broadway lot still specify the service. The vehicles themselves may not be British. And anyway - London is such a cosmopolitan City, what's the big deal with a bunch of Parisians claiming a little bit of their national onions on our famous red buses? We're all European now......

The Germans run some of my local trains. The 2 largest bus groups in Britain have their roots in Scotland. 10 miles down the road from me in Kidderminster, the green buses of Whittles are ultimately controlled by a Yorkshireman. Is Calais any further away from me than Aberdeen?

And yet buses are local creatures. Who amongst us (in our anoraks at least) doesn't miss Midland Red, Ribble and Southdown? I nearly got mowed down by a Land Rover sprinting across the road like an excited child in Llandudno the other week to take a picture of an Arriva bus painted in the colours of the erstwhile Crosville (to celebrate what would have been that company's centenary).

For the rest of us who don't see buses in an enthusiast light, "localness" may be all fine and dandy (The Go Ahead Group have demonstrated how local branding can really add value and customer-loyalty to proceedings) - but ultimately, whether it's one of Brian's Stagecoachs, Gilles's Barbie pink corporates or Peter's Worcestershire-cum-Yorkshire Whittle buses, all us passengers want is for it to arrive on time, get to where we want on time, and for it to be clean, comfortable and reasonably-priced.

And if our French friends can provide that in Central London can do that - vive la France!

As one of their footballers - a certain Mr Ginola once proclaimed for some hair product or other - "I am worth it".........

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