I’ve just written to the Government Coalition, who are asking for public discussion of their forthcoming policies:
“The coalition currently plans to “encourage joint working between bus operators and local authorities” This is not enough!
The deregulation of the bus services – hardly noticed by the city dwellers who make up most of the UK’s central administration, and the affluent who make up most of the country-side administrators – spelled tragedy for rural areas and particularly the rural poor. Over the last government it has got worse and worse and more and more expensive. The Audit Commission commented a few years back how poor the deregulated service was – particularly in rural areas – in terms of cost, provision and accountability. This poor service is particularly hard on the poor, the sick, jobseekers, the elderly, the young, the incapable, the green, those who wish to travel in the evenings, and the dispossessed. With the current financial situation, the deregulated services look set to get worse just at the time when people have most need of alternatives to the private car. Where i live – a small country town – there is no way to get to the local hospital for the evening visiting time unless you cycle (six dark miles of country road) or drive your own car!
The Liberal Democrats were committed in their manifesto to reregulation of the bus services – and this should still go ahead. Before deregulation , a policy of cross-subsidisation meant that the popular bus routes funded less popular but socially necessary ones. SInce then, under Labour – who paid lipservice to sustainable transport – the cost of bus and coach travel rose 24% over inflation 1998-2009 and enriched companies like Stagecoach and First while producing less and less of a service and thus depriving many people of a lifeline.
With reregulation we could retrieve this situation and provide a better service to the travelling public at no extra cost to the public purse. We would improve our green credentials at the same time!
If we don’t reregulate I fear the buses are reaching a Beeching situation. And when we lose a functioning service for good we will truly pauperise many people and prevent them from contributing to the economic recovery which we all seek!
Why not have your say! The deadline is June 10 http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/