April 26, 2010


In recent years successive government departments have promoted buses as an efficient way to combat global warming and traffic gridlock. We are encouraged to leave the car at home and catch the Number 44.

Sounds sensible on the face of it. But if you apply a smattering of logic it becomes obvious that it’s utter nonsense.

Consider this: even if the bus IS more efficient and greener – which I very much doubt – when sitting at a bus stop it creates a tailback of parked cars, all of which are producing more greenhouse gasses than if they were allowed to simply carry on their way.

And have you noticed that when you do finally manage to get clear of the bus that’s been holding back the line of cars (and there will be another just ahead, don’t worry) it’s carrying only one or two passengers? A great big bus with a great big engine pumping God-knows-what into the atmosphere so that two people and a dog can get to The Buroo. Hardly sounds like a way to save the planet.

Now, buses are probably a good idea at rush-hour, granted. But for the other 11 hours it’s the stop – go – stop journey these wheeled boxes create for all the cars stuck behind them that really irks. With every stop, more cars join the queue until the bus is leading a mile-long procession through the town.

This isn’t helped by the number of bus stops, either. Take Polbeth; a village hardly a half mile from beginning to end. But it has eight bus stops – plus a temporary stop – within the village. And just yards outside the boundary there are another four! That’s thirteen places where a bus can block the street and create a jam, keeping a line of busy individuals and delivery trucks from going about their business, while a couple of dozy passengers fumble around in bags and pockets looking for the right change. And that’s just one village. Does that sound sensible to you?

Yet drivers put up with it every day. The next time you’re driving around a West Lothian town, try driving at bus-speed and stopping every 100 yards to ask whoever happens to be on the pavement if they have change of a fiver. I guarantee you won’t get very far before one of the drivers in the following cortege pulls you from the vehicle and gives you a hefty slap – or the police pull you over. But buses get away with it.

The conclusion? If you want to free up the traffic and reduce air pollution in West Lothian it might make more sense to reduce the number of buses trundling around our roads, and encourage people to take the car.

Drew McAdam



October 12, 2009


IN THE FACE of rising fuel costs, motoring experts take great delight in sharing with us their views on how to save on the cost of petrol.

In fact, What Car even designed a special eco-driving course to prove that it was possible to cut fuel consumption by an average of 21% by applying ten basic techniques.

Among the suggested techniques were the recommendations that the driver maintain momentum, change up gear earlier, and shed any excess weight.

In fact, here is a list of genuine suggestions – with my comments:

Maintain momentum.

In other words, don’t stop. Keep going.

As if we drivers actually like stopping! No, the whole point in driving a car is to keep going.

Change up a gear as early as possible. The fewer revs the engine is doing at any given speed, the more miles it’ll do to the gallon.

Really? And there was me thinking that the more I revved my engine (while sitting going nowhere) the more fuel I was saving. Sheeeesh!

Shed weight. The lighter your car is, the less fuel it’ll use.

Sounds reasonable… but the first thing I’m going to get rid of is my collection of magazines and newspapers in which motoring experts write patronising columns and insist on treating me as a complete nincompoop.

Choose an eco route. …remember that a longer route might cut your fuel bills if there’s less stop-start traffic.

And there again, it might not. Why do I think that the writer of this report was struggling to make his list up to nice, round “ten”? How are you supposed to judge whether a route that takes in two villages and a town is more fuel economical than a 60-mile country road detour complete with tractors and little girls on ponies to contend with?

Slash your speed: …Cruise at 60mph rather than 90mph on the motorway and you’ll use roughly 50% less fuel.

Honestly, I’m not making this one up. Not only will you use less fuel but you won’t have the delight of a double flash from a speed camera in your rear-view mirror – and the accompanying sheaf of tickets.

And if I drive at 40 instead of 60, will that cut my fuel bill by a further 50%? What of 20 mph? Hmmm. According to the mathematics, if I drive at 3mph I will only use a teaspoon of fuel to get from one end of the country to the other.

And on and on it goes.

Well, here are my own suggestions how to reduce your petrol bill.

Firstly, get rid of any extra baggage. Don’t take passengers, just politely suggest that they take the bus and you’ll meet them at the other end.

Secondly, if you are at the top of a hill simply switch off your engine and coast down it. (But DO remember that the steering lock will come on and it’s unlikely you’ll make it round the bend at the bottom.)

Next, don’t go visit anybody. Let THEM visit you.

And lastly, sell the car and buy a horse.

Following my list I can guarantee that you will cut fuel consumption by a lot more than the paltry 21% the motoring journalists recommend. There again, my list is about as realistic as theirs.

Drew McAdam