Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What Use Is Free Bus Travel if There Aren't Any Buses!

That's the question pensioners are asking following the government's bungled introduction of free bus travel.

The government's legislation requires that councils provide free bus travel within the authority.

A pot of money has been provided to councils to pay for this. Inevitably the sum of money is not enough.

The effect of this that councils are not paying the bus operators the full cost of carrying pensioners. Southampton pays them 50p for every pound of travel.

This means that bus operators are losing money on some routes. This may happen even if there is a net increase in the numbers of passengers using the route.

Bus companies are therefore challenging the legislation and withdrawing uneconomic routes.

The X27 from Southampton to Portsmouth (pictured above) is one such route. It ends of 1st June 2007.

The peverse impact of government legislation is that they have introduced free travel on buses for pensioners and the impact of this is the routes they want to use are being cancelled.

What use is free travel if there isn't a bus!? Many pensioners I have spoken to would rather pay and still have a bus. Next year revised legislation will means that free travel is introduced countrywide and a larger pot of money will be made avaialable. This may mean a higher fee for the operator and more routes becoming economical and therefore staying open or reopenning.

Southampton city council have until now supported the X27 route in >conjunction with Portsmouth City council however this will end in June as Portsmouth have advised that they can't meet the extra costs acked >for by the operator, Solent Blueline. Southampton are looking at alternative provision perhaps via Southampton Airport.

This is another example of how Labour's top down centrist approach fails. Bad legislation has had the opposite impact of what was intended.

Surely it would have been much better to provide more funds to local government and let them decide how the money is best spent locally. The money might still have gone into subsidies for public transport but might have been much more effectively targeted.


Stephen Phillips said...

We shouldn't be subsidising bus companies. All businesses have an unprofitable product or service yet they accept this and their more profitable products/services subsidise these. If the bus companies want to pull out for losing a Government subsidy, then get smaller operators to form a joint venture and they can operate all City routes. They would be glad to have such an opportunity.

Jeremy Moulton said...

I think there is a strong case of subsidising non profitable routes and the council spends a lot of money doing this each year. However your point about managing the contract appropriately is very sensible.