Since I started at Chronicle Live over a year ago, I have been using the Go North East bus network to get to the office and back. This has not been possible for the last few weeks due to the latest round of driver strikes, and I have had to find a different way of getting into Newcastle.
I have been able to get the Metro from Felling as it is nearby but it does present a challenge, namely how steep the bank is on Coldwell Lane. This is fine on the way there when I am going downhill, but not quite as easy on the way back up.
I still have to leave at around 7.45am, which is about the same time as I would leave for the bus in the past, as the time that the walk and Metro take compared to the time that the bus takes cancel each other out. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I set off on my walk which, as much as it is downhill, is still a decent distance.
When I get to the bottom of Coldwell Lane, I head past ASDA and other nearby shops, sometimes nipping into Greggs for a breakfast sandwich if I didn’t have anything at home. And then walk down another steep hill towards the Metro station. The trains are quite frequent to Felling which is handy, the most I usually have to wait is 10-15 minutes, but it is how busy they are that is the issue.
There have been multiple occasions in the last few weeks where I have been able to barely squeeze onto a train, with mere centimetres between me and the closing doors. I have been pushed up against the side of the train, barely able to move due to the sheer numbers.
When I have previously travelled by Metro to work before the strikes, it was always busy but this is at another level at the moment. Being in such an uncomfortable situation with complete strangers is not ideal and I am hoping that this is something that does not go on for too much longer.
I have been able to put earphones in during the journey and listen to music which is always helpful, trying to be as courteous as possible when people need to get on and off. It is a stressful time for people this early in the morning and I have witnessed a couple of minor confrontations where frustration has boiled over.
The way back is essentially the reverse of this, as the Metro is still quite busy and I rarely get a seat, but I am also not in a mass of bodies or in anywhere near as uncomfortable of a situation. The main issue is the walk back up the bank, which takes around half an hour on a good day.
This is also weather dependent too, as walking back up what is already a formidable incline when drenched in rain is not pleasant. All of this being said, I want to point out that I am far from the worst person affected by this, as there have been communities completely cut off by the strikes.
One of those is Burnopfield, which I visited earlier in the week. I spoke to residents and business owners about the strikes and how they have been impacting them, and it really put things into perspective for me.
It isn’t lost on me just how bad it is for some people in the region, with the elderly and other vulnerable people not able to do something like going to the shops that most people would take for granted. These buses are their only way of getting around and they are left completely cut off without them.
It is important that those of us with the means to do so, like myself, look out for those that are not in that position and ensure that they are able to cope. I am young, relatively physically fit and am able to deal with these circumstances, but we need to look after the most vulnerable in society at what is such a difficult time.
I wanted to shared the impact that this is having on me, as well as on others, in the hopes that a resolution can be found soon, as this is not a sustainable situation. I implore everyone involved to use this as an example of what this ongoing industrial action is doing to the people of the North East.
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