I was slightly taken aback when I read this week's Cambrian News (a few days later than normal I must admit) and found myself being name checked in the letters page.
As the final paragraph of the letter written by E.A.Jones from Ciliau Aeron stated:
"I challenge all councillors and other decision-makers to join me in my journey on a bus to see what we non-drivers have to endure when wanting to tour around this county. They'd soon change their tune if they had to put up with what we have to put up with, apart from Cllr Mark Cole from Cardigan, whom I've had the pleasure of meeting many times on our buses and who makes full use of our public transport system".
It was a surprise to see a name-check like that in the paper and I'm not entirely sure who in this case E.A.Jones is although I'm sure I'd instantly recognise the face and anyway, it was pleasing all the same to see such kind words in the paper as was the case here.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am well known - indeed, famed almost - for not being a car driver. Yes, I'm 27 and I should be driving by now I know and I always say that I will get around to it sometime soon. But the pressure of work on my time commitments has meant that I've never had the time needed to put in for regular lessons. What I will one day resort to I'm sure is an intensive burst of lessons over a short space of time and get it all done in one go.
Public Transport is King
But until that happens, I will continue to do what I have done since I began my time in Aberystwyth University 11 years ago - use the bus.
I'm often asked 'how do you do it? Up and down to Council meetings in Aberaeron or when I worked in Aberystwyth up and back from there on a regular, daily 75 mile round-trip basis'? Well, like anything, it just became a normal part of my day-to-day routine. I also enjoy it. My travelling to and from work more often that not would become one of the few oasis's of calm that I would enjoy in the day. I'd make use of it by catching up on the daily or weekly newspapers or would even indulge myself in a light snooze if I'd been lacking in the required 40 winks the night before. From time to time I'd chat to fellow bus users and as the years went by and I became a 'regular' of sorts, these chats and discussions would invariably increase - particularly with my fellow regular bus users.
During my Mayoral year in Cardigan last year, I also got myself a reputation for fighting for local transport users when I wrote a stinging letter to Arriva Buses Wales after they botched up timetable changes by not telling the paying users in advance. The result being that users of all ages, but particularly the elderly, were waiting in the rain and wind in Aberaeron for a bust that had already left for Aberystwyth. As a result, the Head of Operations for Arriva Buses Wales came down from his HQ in Llandudno Junction in north Wales to meet with me in Cardigan and he apologised for their mistakes and the break down in communication.
Welsh Assembly Let-Down
Whilst public sector budgets are being squeezed, support from the Welsh Assembly for our rural areas that particularly require public transport services has been woeful. The Welsh Assembly presently distributes the Local Transport Service Grant unfairly as the formula on which it is based is on population and therefore disadvantages the rural area of Mid Wales.
It is an issue on which we are fighting and in the meantime, I will continue to proudly use our local bus services to show that as the letter above stated, there are some of us who understand these issues at first hand.