Bus deregulation - 25 years on

Discussion in 'Other Public Transport' started by Mojo, 26 Oct 2011.

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  1. Mojo

    Mojo Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Today marks 25 years since bus deregulation came into effect in Great Britain (except London), under the Transport Act 1985.

    Since then, passenger numbers have fallen from 5,335 Million in 1986/87 to 5,160 Million in 2010/11, but the decline was much sharper before deregulation, falling from 12,734 Million in 1950. Bus passenger numbers are largely remaining static (only a 0.1 increase from the year before), despite the huge investment in Quality partnerships, Showcase bus routes and so on. Local authorities have the option to enter into a Quality contract with operators and this was made much easier since new legislation passed a few years ago.
     
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  3. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Yet the use of buses in regulated London has grown at the same time that usage has declined elsewhere.
     
  4. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    In fact, has grown enormously, hiding the fact in the headline figures that it's declined fairly sharply in most areas outside of London.
     
  5. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    Is there any evidence that this is due to the lack of deregulation and not the fact that driving in London is not very practical?
     
  6. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    I'm trying to find the figures but bus use in London was declining until the late-90s and has increased massively since the introduction of new and more frequent buses and several new routes (and a lot of Night routes) from 2000 (along with a massive increase in the subsidy required).

    And of course the congestion charge will have helped put people of driving in the centre.

    The lack of deregulation has certainly helped with organising this.

    Plenty of people do still drive though.
     
  7. Ivo

    Ivo Established Member

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    I knew there was a reason today was important, but I couldn't think what...!

    Sadly, in my experience, numbers have been falling wherever I've looked (not to Mojo's disappointment, one would assume). Back home, in 1992 Southend Transport had 115 buses, mostly Fleetline deckers; now, the modern Arriva Southend have about 60 - just two of which are deckers. By contrast, Bath has been seeing a gradual decrease in frequency throughout the last few years, with services 5 and 10 being reduced from 10 to 15 and 7/8 to 10 (12 Sats) respectively, and many country routes have been affected as well. Even the University routes have been hit; we now have just seven bendies to cover a PVR of at least 13!

    A lot of it is down to investment, and with the exception of some Go-Ahead and municipal/independent operations*, it just isn't there for the most part. For the most part, deregulation has thus been good for the passenger seeking active competition - and bad for most others.

    *Others seem to either invest in bundles and then do nothing for ages - Stagecoach seem to be good at this; look at Cambridge for instance - or only invest where authorities and/or contracts require them to.
     
  8. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    As I have said before, not everyone was expecting the likes of First and Stagecoach to go around swallowing up companies and that we would instead have lots of small companies competing for passengers and so improving the service.
     
  9. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    Not everyone was admitting it, but it's generally what happens in a privatised market.

    It was never going to be feasible for most areas to support multiple operators competing - not unless a *lot* of people are travelling by bus (and there's a handful of high traffic routes where that happens, mostly in big cities with a history of - London -Oxford, Manchester-Stockport).

    Otherwise companies stick to their own patches and expand by taking over other companies. NCT and Trentbarton have both done well around Nottingham but they rarely compete with each other even on common bits of route.
     
  10. Harlesden

    Harlesden Member

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    Taking Grimsby as an example, the private operator halved the number of routes leaving many areas that had enjoyed a bus service for many years without one. Many passengers have considerably further to walk to get a bus and so perhaps half of them simply don't bother.
    The road past the bus depot itself which formerly had 3-4 frequent routes serving it now, since privatisation, only has one infrequent route despite the new giant Tesco and PC World nearby
     
  11. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

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    What saddens me is that no UK politician in government appears to have the appetite or gumption to reform bus services outside London.

    For instance, we may well see paper tickets replaced by smart cards. But you'll need a separate smart card for each operator.

    There are parts of this country with virtually no bus services after 18:00 during the week. For instance, Sevenoaks, a town just 20 miles from London, does not appear to have any buses on Sunday at all.

    In London, you pay £4.00 for a day bus. On the Isle of Wight, half the size, it's £10.00.

    West Yorkshire efforts to establish London style bus operations seems to be thwarted by a trade association of local bus operators set up for this purpose.

    It's a miserable state of affairs, which appears to benefit private bus companies rather than the travelling public.
     
  12. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    At the end of the day, unless people are prepared to accept taxpayers money going to subsidize these services then market forces will dictate that they don't run.
     
  13. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

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    As opposed to being practical in Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham. All cities with populations over half a million ?
     
  14. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    But not on the scale of London. I'm not sure about the cities you listed but in Bristol the network is largely radial with buses running from outer areas into the centre so to go between two of the outer areas you may have to go via the centre and this makes the journey time much longer and slower than by car.
     
  15. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

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    Yes, I have been to Bristol many times and scarcely recall ever using a bus. What does it say about this country when a public service is offered and financed by private operators and, in turn, ignored by chunks of the UK population in preference to a car.

    Back in August 2011, I went to Dresden. A city of similar spread and size as Bristol, complete with connecting trams, buses and trains. All using just one day ticket available all day long. What exactly is stopping Bristol having something as good as Dresden ?
     
  16. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    Also with the exception of the Friday/Saturday night buses, the network in Bristol stops running at about 11 PM. For a city on the scale of Bristol this is too early and having been used to the bus network in Greater London where many routes until between midnight and 1 AM, this surprised me the first time I visited Bristol.
     
  17. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    And over a hundred routes which run at least half-hourly all night...
     
  18. flymo

    flymo Established Member

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    I remember deregulation all too well, I was working for Tyne and Wear PTE at Byker at the time. (that became PTE Buses, then City Busways, then Newcastle Busways, then Stagecoach something or other).

    We all thought then it was the start of a brave new world with loads of competition. To be fair there was a little bit in Newcastle with the 'Tyne and Wear Omnibus Company' and their fleet of old crash box Bristols and the like. They lasted until 1989 when they were bought by Go-ahead then sold onto Busways. Welcome Passenger Services were a little better running newish minibuses on some popular routes but since 1993 when Welcome were bought there has been little if any real competition on the roads of Newcastle.

    As for the fares, in 1986 I have the fares from then and (what they would be today in brackets) using an online comparison just for a bit of fun.

    Kids 5p (11p)
    Stage B 14p (31p)
    Stage C 20p (45p)
    Stage D 26p (58p)
    1 Zone 32p (71p)
    2 Zone 37p (83p)
    3 Zone 46p (£1)
    4 Zone 58p (£1.29)
    5 Zone 70p (£1.56)

    70p was the maximum fare back then for any single journey or Transfare wholly within Tyne and Wear. Obviously wages etc will have gone up a lot since then too so the prices are not easy to compare with today's. Still nice seeing fares as low as 14p for a couple of stops...:D

    There is no doubt that investment in new buses, certainly by Go Ahead has been welcomed, having said that 2 hours on a MK1 National on the 638 from Ryton to Sunderland on a Saturday morning was my idea of bliss. :D:D

    I think what I miss the most about the time before deregulation is the integrated transport system in Tyne and Wear. That was truly amazing even if you did need to use a Bus - Metro - Bus journey on occasion to cross to foreign parts (Gateshead, Sunderland etc :grin:). Deregulation changed all that with everyone and anyone running buses into the centre of town. As for ticketing, each company seems to have their own ticket now, unless you have a travelcard I suppose.

    Still, that was all 25 years ago now, seems just like yesterday....:|

    (takes off rose tinted spectacles :D)
     
  19. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Obviously it's difficult to be 100% certain what the cause is without asking everyone why they do or don't use the bus. However, I would consider it too great a coincidence that the only area not to have been deregulated is also the only area not to have suffered a decline in usage. In this circumstance I would be inclined to ask where is the proof that deregulation hasn't had an effect.

    There is also the fact that over the period of time in question, the UK has experienced one of the longest economic booms in history, an unprecedented increase in road congestion and increasing fuel prices, all of which have lead to increases in the use every other mode of public transport. One has to start asking questions as to why bus transport has failed so abysmally.

    I can think of to areas where deregulation has substantially degraded the quality of bus transport off the top of my head:
    1) Withdrawing proper return fares in favour of overpriced day rovers.
    2) Lack of co-operation on bus ticketing, i.e having to wait for buses to go past because you have a different companies ticket.

    Bus deregulation has been an unmitigated disaster.
     
  20. mbonwick

    mbonwick Established Member

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    Still referred to as Stagecoach Busways, even today. However brand names used are "Stagecoach in Newcastle/Teesside" etc, but with Busways legal lettering.
     
  21. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    The cost of rail travel though has increased significantly in the last few years for anyone that wants flexibility. Yes there are some very good book in advance deals but I'm sure that not having the ability to just turn up and get the next train must turn some people away from the railways and if this policy continues then maybe rail use won't increase as much as it could do.
     
  22. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    In West Yorkshire I started going to Secondary school by train and bus in 1986. There were maximum off peak fares (0930-1500, 1800-end of service) of 15p on buses and 30p on trains (child fares - adult fares were twice that). However I was using "saverstrips" which gave you 12 journeys for the price of 9. I think my peak train fare was 40p single from Sowerby Bridge - Bradford. In 1988 my train fare was 45p. Sometimes I caught the direct X12 express bus from Bradford - Ripponden (via Sowerby Bridge, destination Manchester). This was also 45p.
     
  23. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    But the point is that in spite of this, rail passenger growth has still increased.

    It might be that because the sort of rail journeys where passengers have to book in advance tend to be longer distance, people are more prepared to book in advance and stick to a schedule, much like flying.

    To go back to my example of lack of co-operation on ticketing, on shorter distance urban routes, people don't expect to have to be fannying around making sure thay havfe the right day rover for the right bus. Buses tend to be used for shorter distance journeys, and on these people are more likely to expect a logical integrated system of ticketing, much like the PTE's are still able to enforce on their train systems.
     
    Last edited: 26 Oct 2011
  24. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

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    Rail passenger use has been in decline since the WWII. But during BR's stewardship in the 1980s, turned a corner and has been growing more or less ever since.

    Bus use outside London has been in terminal decline. London has bucked that trend with more people using buses than since about 1960.

    Politicians lack the vision or gumption to provide the rest of the UK with London style bus operations. And with a new transport minister every year or so, lurch from one rail franchise policy to the next.
     
  25. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    But once it becomes unaffordable for the average person to have a car then an increase in bus use nationwide is inevitable.
     
  26. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Absolutely spot on.
     
  27. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

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    I do hope so.

    Apparently our wish may already be coming true.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/features/is-this-the-end-of-the-car-2286616.html

    Now what politician is going stand up and capitalist on this situation ? By that, I mean, along the lines of "with declining car use in the UK, we will make bus travel as appealing as possible to both ex-car users and those who've never driven".
     
  28. Zoe

    Zoe Established Member

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    The question here though is if it needs any political involvement at all. If market forces force most people out of their cars then these people still need to travel so the market will dictate that they use the bus. The reality may well be that the days of the private car are numbered and the modal shift could be handled by the market itself.
     
  29. MCR247

    MCR247 Established Member

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    Nottingham is doing quite well for buses with constant investment and making routes more frequent, so it can't all be bad outside of London! :)
     
  30. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    If they believe in market forces so much, how comes they haven't let them roam free in the great Imperial capital ?

    And frankly I don't buy the idea that London is so different from the rest other Cities around the country that it's public transport must be managed in a completely different way from everywhere else. Other Cities have the same problems and challenges as London - it's just that London is on a bigger scale.
     
  31. shinkansen1966

    shinkansen1966 Established Member

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    I think you may be right. It's just a shame that a little regulation to simplify bus fares London style might help things along.

    Still in terms of our fragmented bus network, I don't think things will get any worse.
     
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