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2013 - A Happy New Year?

posted 2 Jan 2013, 07:46 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 3 Jan 2013, 03:32 ]

What a year 2012 turned out to be?

On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to be part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and consider it a privilege to have worked with so many wonderful colleagues from around the world to help deliver the “greatest games ever”. It is criminal that so many of them are now struggling to secure new employment opportunities.

But what can we expect in 2013?

On the bus front, it is imperative that the industry, local authorities and national government address the concessionary travel timebomb which is threatening to engulf local networks. The free concessionary travel scheme for the elderly has become a millstone around the necks of local authorities struggling with severe budget reductions and which, if left unchecked threatens to drown a great many bus services, and other council funded services and take a number of bus operators down with it.

Meaningful and constructive dialogue has to start now to find a way to cap expenditure, but at the same time ensuring an equitable reimbursement rate. This will be a major challenge, but it one which cannot be shirked. I well recall my time as the Public Transport Co-ordinator of a new unitary authority in the late 1990’s trying to explain the system to councillors with new responsibilities, struggling to balance an unsatisfactory budget settlement, and how we got our fingers burned in trying to restrict concessionary token use and devise a capped reimbursement pot to local operators.

Progress on partnership working between bus operators and local authorities has been encouraging and, hopefully, will continue throughout 2013. However, now that the honeymoons are over, it is time to begin to focus on the Quality elements of Quality Partnerships, i.e. delivering improved infrastructure and information for passengers and greater bus priority, as well as better vehicles. Partnerships must seek new ways to promote their product – especially to non-users.

In 2013, the Traffic Commissioners will focus more closely on bus service operating standards and will expect comprehensive monitoring of service performance rather than monitoring based on a small sample of scheduled journeys. Roy McDonald Consulting, through its partnership working with Agito, is able to offer an independent quantitative and qualitative data and analysis service, to both operators and authorities alike, enabling potential problems to be identified and rectified before they become the subject of enforcement.

Finally, on aviation - a subject I don't often comment on - is it too much to hope for a rational evaluation of airport policy across the whole of England and Wales, rather than the domination of the Metrocentric argument and its increasingly polarised views?

We need a proper, independent assessment of the likely growth of the air travel market, of the benefits of the “hub” and regional access assertions, of the mix between long and short haul, scheduled and charter, passenger and freight and the relative volume of flights between the UK and destinations in North America, China and the Pacific Rim.

We are a small island, with excellent road and rail links and many fine regional airports. With relatively modest investment in infrastructure we should be able to develop a comprehensive and integrated transport policy serving the future of aviation from this country.

Whatever 2013 brings, may your days be merry and bright. On behalf of Roy McDonald Consulting, I would like to wish everyone involved in the transport industry a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.