Bus company must rebuild bridges with passengers

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It really had not been a very impressive past six months for bus company First. And it has just got a whole lot worse.

Firstly, there were problems over radical new timetables and restructuring of the company’s network across the Portsmouth area.

Passengers raised merry hell and the firm had to introduce extra changes to meet some of the complaints.

But then the wheels really did come off. Or rather the roof, twice.

Now, losing the top off your double-decker once might be seen as a mishap, but twice, on the same stretch of road, under the same bridge and within five months of each other – that’s a farce.

Pictures of the remains of First buses with their roofs peeled off like those from sardine tins, might raise a smile among some.

However, we can only shudder at the thought of what might have happened on both occasions beneath the railway bridge close to Portchester station, had there been passengers on the top deck.

And then there are the hours of inconvenience caused to road users and the delays to rail services while engineers make sure the bridge is safe enough to allow trains to pass over it again.

A First spokesman says in The News today: ‘As a company we take the safety of our staff, customers and other road users extremely seriously. Incidents such as this are rare and it is unusual for two similar incidents to happen in the same place.

‘The cause of the collision is being thoroughly investigated.’

It was not a ‘collision’. The bridge at Portchester has, to our knowledge, not moved since the day it was built and the line to Fareham opened in 1848.

Which begs the question: why, after all these decades, are First drivers not ordered to avoid this route completely – whether their buses are in service or not?

First has promised an investigation. We, and thousands of passengers, await the outcome with great interest, not only to discover the cause of this crash, but also to find out why drivers of double-decker buses continually insist on trying to squeeze their vehicles under a bridge which is not high enough.