THIS ISLAND LIFE
If you go on the Southern Vectis website in an effort to enter into a sensible discourse with the company, you will find an invitation to talk2us @southernvectis.com
This all sounds very accommodating, except the company, or at least its boss, is not very keen on talking2u.
I know, because I attempted to have a chat with him about one of his drivers who came within a foot of turning me into a prematurely expired columnist the other day.
The incident occurred while I was walking along a country lane with my dog in the recommended fashion (viz hugging the hedge while facing the oncoming traffic).
Like most lanes on the Island, this one is not particularly wide but it is perfectly possible for a bus and another vehicle to pass without too much effort.
Therefore, when I heard the bus approach from behind (ie on the opposite side of the road to me) I did not give the matter much thought as there were no other vehicles on the road at the time — which made the driver’s decision to pass within 12 inches of me all the more surprising.
I thought the company’s general manager, Matt Kitchin, might be interested to learn he had a hot-head at the wheel of one of his buses, so I rang him as soon as I got home.
However, there was a 'recruitment day’ taking place, so he was not available before lunch. I was advised to ring again in the afternoon, which I did.
On this occasion the receptionist said she would put me through, only to return ten seconds later to say Mr Kitchin was 'unavailable’ but I could send him an e-mail. This I did, and marked it "FAO Matt Kitchin" and briefly outlined the reason for my call.
I eventually received a tried and trusted reply (probably filed under "Bland Excuse 3c; awkward customers for the use of") from a representative of the company’s customer services team.
This was somewhat unexpected, since I was not contacting them as a customer and did not require any kind of service.
But it contained all the usual self-serving jargon, such as "we take such incidents very seriously … we take great pride in the training we provide … the matter will be investigated and addressed in accordance with the company’s internal policies, blah blah."
I suspect I would have received an identical reply had I complained about some oaf expectorating in the aisle, or placing his grubby trainers on the seat next to me on the number nine from Ryde.
But from Mr Kitchin, not a word. Perhaps he did not regard a pedestrian being buffeted by one of his buses as a matter worthy of his attention.
Then the unworthy thought occurred to me he might be sulking, for it was Mr Kitchin, you may recall, who was upbraided in this column recently for his pusillanimous response to Cllr Chris Whitehouse’s sanctimonious little squeak about the "stunning females" tweet on the Southern Vectis Twitter account.
But his disinclination to discuss what was, at best, an unacceptable breach of highway etiquette, and at worst a dangerous example of gross driving incompetence, has left me with little choice.
Should something similar happen again, I shall take the matter up with the police. It is, after all, easy to identify the driver in such circumstances
And sometimes it pays to cut out the middle man.
A very short diversion to test drivers’ temper
Driving along the Island’s roads has become an ever more unpredictable experience.
At one moment it feels like you’re travelling in a cart with square wooden wheels and cast-iron springs, the next it feels as if you’re at the wheel of a hovercraft gliding smoothly over freshly laid lino.
Say what you like about Island Roads but when it gets down to doing the job we most require of it, it does it very well.
But the company is still being let down by its signage crew, whose slapdash approach and depressing lack of knowledge about the highway network on the Island is becoming something of a local joke.
Take a look at this photograph, for example, sent to me by a despairing resident of Rookley.
It shows drivers making their way from Godshill towards Newport along the main road last month would have been met with
a sign diverting them up Niton Road.
Having made the necessary adjustment, they would then have travelled about three metres before encountering a sign informing them the road was actually closed.
Such slovenly work does not bode well for the summer, when the roads will be thick with tourists groping their way between the temporary traffic lights and squinting at the inadequate signs.
I suspect the sound of sat-navs imploding will be heard all over the Island.