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Reverse bus deregulation by re-regulation and/or renationalisation

1 Comment 2nd July 2010

To improve standards on scheduled bus services and raise passenger numbers (particularly outside London), all services should be re-regulated in accordance to:

  • Each service being operated with consistent fleet management policies (ending the scenario where one journey has a low floor minibus with the second journey being operated by a step-entrance double decker bus) with a maximum vehicle age of 15 years old;
  • Allowing greater passenger input into timetable compilation and future service revisions (i.e enhancements, prospective withdrawals);
  • Minimum standards for service indicator layout with full details of route number, destination and details of intermediate stops;
  • Minimum standards of bus used, number of seats per hour and frequencies (similar to the Public Service Requirement in the 1994 Railways Act);
  • The guaranteeing of socially necessary evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services;
  • Minimum standards of information provision (with real-time information made standard throughout the UK);
  • Offering affordable adult fares, free concessionary fares and a standard rate for all services based on mileage;
  • Abolishing wasteful competition along routes (the bus' main competitors are rail, tram, taxi and car rather than other routes).

Where services need to be taken into public ownership, priority should be given to:

  • All scheduled bus undertakings in rural areas (where access to public services is hampered by distance) and deprived urban areas (where car ownership is lower than average);
  • Metropolitan areas whom in 1986 lost a publicly funded network (as per the 1968 Transport Act) after deregulation. For instance, this could mean the return of South Yorkshire's cheap fares and the reversal of GM Buses' split in 1993;
  • Former municipal operators (i.e Yellow Buses in Bournemouth, Chester City Transport and Plymouth Citybus);
  • All evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services from Land's End to John O' Groats;
  • All hospital services and school buses.

Why does this matter?

Local bus services should be treated as a utility in the same way as fast broadband access, gas, electricity and water.  It is also a natural monopoly which shouldn't be subject to the whims of free market competition between route. Therefore, its main competitors are local rail and tram services, the private car and taxi services.

The notion of bus deregulation offering lower fares through competition and improving services was a fallacy which saw countless urban and rural areas lose important routes, leading to the chronic road congestion we see today.

Since the 26 October 1986, fares have risen above the rate of inflation whilst services and operational standards have been cut.  It has led to older buses being on the roads, less profitable areas being cut off from the wider network and chaos due to multifarious fare scales, timetables and ticketing conditions.

This has led to a scenario where people have been put off from using the bus in favour of the car. It has led to the stigmatising of regular bus users, who find this mode of public transport more affordable than city centre parking charges and petrol prices.

In the long term, bus re-regulation and renationalisation makes economic and environmental sense. If the service is frequent enough and more affordable, more people would use their local route. Result: freer road space and possibly faster journey times. Renationalisation would also save local councils X amounts in offering subsidies to private operators with the operation being kept in-house.

Reversing the 1985 Transport Act in terms of the Bus Deregulation component will give significant benefits to regular bus users who have faced the gamut of fare hikes, service revisions and inadequate vehicles.  Instead of the little companies which (according to the 1985 Transport Act) would improve standards, the UK's bus network is dominated by private monopolies in some areas, which have had a negative effect on service provision.  Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Greater Manchester where the split of GM Buses has contributed to a North-South divide within the conurbation rather than that of competition and first rate service provision all round.

I urge you to support this motion.

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One Response to Reverse bus deregulation by re-regulation and/or renationalisation

  1. Mark Rowan says:

    Absolutely a good idea. Bus deregulation is the number one reason why bus services outside London are so poor.

    I would suggest, however, that whilst taking operators back into public ownership may be a nice ideal, it is less of a priority especially given the initial cost outlay.

    London shows that the regulated franchise model can work, despite the private ownership, as operators compete against each other in terms of passenger improvements and minimum service levels at the franchise level, rather than by trying to drive each other off the road and undercut each other at the bus-stop level.

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