During my formative years over in the UK, I remember a bit of a fuss over a bus. I don’t want to lose anybody here, but circa 1988, Burnley & Pendle Transport bought themselves a fleet of old red London double becker buses and named them all after characters in the crafty cockney soap opera otherwise known as Eastenders.
As the History of Burnley & Pendle buses site explains:
There followed a period of “bus wars” with intense competition on the “main line” routes. Victoria coaches soon pulled out also Blackburn Transport and Tyrer Tours were “bought off”. In an attempt to stave off the competition five ex. London Transport Routemasters were acquired in 1988 and painted red & cream in an “Eastenders” livery. Each bus was given a name from the TV soap. These were Dirty Den, Queen Vic, Wicksi, Dot Cotton & Albert Square.
I remember them quite well as they ran the bus route near my house. But, as soon as they arrived, they’d disappeared again. Not a weary, wistful goodbye, no nothing.
Anyway, a good few years later, my buddy disappeared off to Hungary. I remember him ringing me one day from Budapest to tell me that he’d spotted the Dot Cotton bus hanging about in the carpark of some dubious Hungarian drinking joint.
The next thing you know, it’s frontpage in our local newspaper with fond testimonials from the locals, my buddy having contacted the local paper and taken some photos.
And so we come to Wheeling, where today’s front page story in The Intelligencer is a spurious tale about buses. Apparently, the local Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority has just starting flogging its clapped-out bus fleet on eBay. Maybe other transport authorities have been doing this for years, but The Intelligencer were “unable reach other transit officials for confirmation at the time of press.”
If you can cut through the dull details of how many miles each respective bus had on the clock, you’ll detect an attempt to politicize proceedings by faintly decrying the perceived lack of transparency in these online sales. Although, it isn’t too tricky to work out why noses are slightly out of joint once it’s been explained how the OVRTA used to sell their buses via sealed-bid auctions having advertised the auction in – yes, you’ve guessed it – the local newspaper.
Yet again, the online world of ecommerce trumps old media as even bus authorities in Wheeling are open to the idea of needing a more competitive marketplace offering better returns to sell their rickety stock.
The two they managed to get rid of on eBay today brought $10,890.46, but there’s no mention of how much a bus used to fetch under the sealed system.
It makes a change hearing about local authorities playing it clever for once. Not that you’d guess as much with the barbed last lines of the article:
Anyone can bid on a bus up for auction on eBay, including the Ohio County Commission, which is contemplating providing bus service from Elm Grove to the county’s new retail development site, The Highlands. There has been some contention on the OVRTA board about whether the bus company should provide service to the site. Some say it may be fiscally irresponsible to do so, while others say they simply want a trial run to test ridership.
Because of the OVRTA board’s inaction, county commissioners are expected to consider purchasing their own bus — possibly one of those being auctioned by OVRTA on eBay — to begin a trial run to The Highlands.
Ouch! That’s almost as catty as Eastenders.