Broken buses and leaky tanks?

posted 29 Aug 2014, 06:43 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 29 Aug 2014, 06:43 ]
29th August 2014

So, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a “centre-left think tank “ has issued a report  which notes that bus services outside London need better regulation and that deregulation elsewhere had "largely failed".

Well, knock me down with a rolled up timetable!

Strip away the ideology and political posturing about regulation and control and the undeniable fact is that the financial support for the public transport system in London is substantially greater than that of any other region of the UK.  At the end of the day, you pay your money and you take your choice!

The Government’s Spending Review, which led to stringent funding restrictions imposed on local authorities, has meant that very difficult choices have had to be made on where financial support is directed. Unfortunately, funding for bus services is not a statutory requirement and do not require formal consultation. Bus cuts are easy! As a result buses have suffered a greater proportion of the reductions to budgets. Pteg estimates that by 2014/15, overall funding for bus networks outside London will be around £500 million lower than if 2010/11 funding levels had increased in line with inflation.

All this makes it more ironic that the Department for Transport (DfT – although I prefer my Spellchecker’s version!) claim, "The DfT provides significant funding for bus services across England and Wales. Decisions about bus services are best made locally in partnership between councils and the companies which run the buses.” Ah, localism in action….!

It’s easy to get embroiled in arguments about “public = bad, private = good”, and point to apparent successes and alleged market failures, but the truth is that after 30 years of trying, we have to come up with something better.

But firstly, we have to recognise and accept that a quality transport system, which properly serves our villages, towns and cities has to be properly paid for.

I do not for one minute think that any future Labour/Socialist/Coalition Government will nationalise the transport industry. Further, I do not think that reregulation is the answer.  

However, I do believe that a properly planned and co-ordinated public transport network is the way forward for our regions.

Therefore, I am calling for the establishment of Regional Transport Boards (RTBs) run by Transport people, rather than politicians, able to take a long-term, strategic view.  The RTBs would include representatives of local Transport Operators and the communities.

RTBs would identify the system, plan the integration of services, co-ordinate multi-journey and multi-modal tickets. Some of the routes within the network could still be operated commercially, but under some agreed terms and conditions. The other routes to make up the network would be franchised through a competitive tendering process. Operating incentives would be built into the tendering to encourage the providers to deliver quality services and generate patronage and revenue growth.

2015 is election year. We need the future of public transport to be on the Manifestos.