Lydia Longman asks why is the Safety Bus a brilliant service and why should we be using it more?
You are on campus after 8.00pm; in winter it’s already been dark for hours and most nights it’s raining. Maybe you’ve just been watching a film at Union Films, studying in the library or drinking at the Stags or in the Cube. You don’t want to walk home because it’s too far/too cold/you’re too drunk/you don’t feel safe.
What do you do? Taxi? But the meter starts at over a pound and, let’s face it, you’re a student, it’s not a feasible to use regularly, if at all. Bus? Sure, why not, but it’s £2 one way and might not take you right to your front door.
How about the Safety Bus? £1.50 anywhere in Southampton. £2.50 to Winchester or further afield. Even if you’re only listening to your purse, this is the obvious choice. Cheaper than the bus and almost any taxi fare even if you split it with your friends. Definitely cheaper if you’re on your own.
But there is more to the bus than just being easy on the pocket. The bus is outside the Stags, every night. from 8pm and stays until the last staff member or student gets home. I took a trip with one of the Safety Bus drivers and talked to his passengers to see what they had to say on the service.
Bianca, a second year Psychology student, first heard about the bus in first year. When she had been studying late in the library and missed the last bus home a friend told her about the Safety Bus. Since then she’s used it more or less once a week.
‘It takes you right up to your door.’
Lots of our passengers said that the most dangerous part of the walk home is the last bit, between where the normal bus stops and your house. Adam, a PhD Neuroscience student described his area politely as ‘not brilliant’ and said he didn’t feel very safe on the fifteen minute walk between the bus stop and his house. Dean, a sabbatical officer at the uni, agrees. Dean said he would normally walk or cycle but it’s the quiet roads at the end of his journey that can set you on edge a bit.
‘The drivers are always polite and friendly.’
Coral is a catering assistant in the SUSU café, she uses the bus three times a week when she finishes work at 8pm. Living in Bitterne it can take her over an hour to get home if she takes public transport, whereas the Safety Bus gets her to her front door in under ten minutes. Even better, as a member of SUSU staff, she doesn’t have to pay a thing. Because Coral uses the bus so often the drivers know where to go before she even asks, ‘you get to know them and know who has what shift’ she says.
‘I use the bus two to three times a week.’
Irfaan is a third year Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering student. He didn’t hear about the bus until second year when he saw an advert for it on the screens. Now he uses it whenever he is in the library late. Passengers seem to use the bus anywhere between three times a week and once a month, or just ‘whenever I’m in the stags.’
‘I sometimes take the late shift so I can get the bus.’
Nicole lives in Winchester, without the Safety Bus she would have to get a train and a bus or a train and a taxi. She said she would try and convince her mates to take it with her as it’s too expensive on her own. As a SUSU Sabbatical Officer Nicole is in Southampton a lot and so uses the bus as often as she can to help save money.
The ‘Sick Bus’.
The Safety Bus isn’t just there to take you home from campus. It will also take you home from Portswood on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, or some special event nights at Jesters or Sobar; it’s there from 11pm until both venues close. These buses also have chaperones to look out for the drivers and passengers.
Just so you know, if you are sick on the bus there is a fine. They carry sick bags so if you do feel queasy ask them to pull over or grab one of the bags!
Do you feel Safe in Soton?
I asked most of our passengers whether or not they felt safe walking in Southampton. Most of them said that they do mostly, but there are certain areas they would avoid. Although we may not feel particularly unsafe there have been crimes around popular student areas reaching the local headlines. One passenger had personally been a victim of a violent mugging but said despite this he didn’t feel unsafe in the city.
Many passengers said they caught the bus because of the distance or the price rather than because it was safe but it does give extra security.
Where does the money come from?
The Safety Bus is funded mostly by SUSU, with donations from the Council, police and Safer Students Forum as a not-for-profit service. In fact, they lose quite a bit of money on it each year but the costs are never passed on to the passengers; there has not been a price increase in the last eight years (just for reference, in the last eight years the UniLink single trip price has doubled.)
Think you might want to use the bus now?
Great. If you think you might use it on a regular basis why not save even more money and get a pass? Head to reception to find out more about discounts for regular users.
The Safety Bus is committed to getting all it’s students and staff members home quickly, cheaply and safely. No-one will ever be left behind or turned away. It seems mad not to.