If bus deregulation had never taken place, would our roads be far less congested?

Discussion in 'Buses & Coaches' started by 175mph, 14 Jan 2020.

  1. 175mph

    175mph Member

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    Seeing as how bus fares would probably be still artificially low, it would tempt more people to use the buses, plus if the aren't as many cars on the road, it would make it far easier for the buses to run on time, creating further passenger satisfaction and further tempt more people to use the buses, thus creating a non-vicious circle.

    It got me thinking along the lines of this when I was on an early morning 350 bus to Hull and at about 8:05 as we got to the five ways roundabout on Booth ferry Road, because of the sheer amount of cars queued up, it took almost 15 minutes to reach Anlaby Road, and it was lucky there was a bus lane on parts of Anlaby Road, or else I suspect there would have been significant further delays to getting into the city centre.

    This happens quite a lot during the week, but more recently when I made a remark about it, an elderly person sat in front of me turned round and said "You can blame the Tories in the 80s for selling off our buses, after that, many people wouldn't touch a bus with a barge pole!"

    I know in Germany, they are praised for having attractive enough public transport to tempt people out of their cars, and when I've done random observations when I've got a few minutes to spare on different days on Google Maps of a few towns and cities of the congestion state of the roads, there are very few, if any roads highlighted in red, and ones that are, the congestion is usually due to roadworks or an accident only.

    Or I'm I looking at things in the wrong perspective assuming bus deregulation is largely to blame for our congestion issues?
     
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  3. cnjb8

    cnjb8 Member

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    I think attitudes are different here to Germany and more spending there
     
  4. carlberry

    carlberry Established Member

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    Fares before deregulation were only artificially low in a couple of places. Those places were already being targeted by the government of the day for spending cuts so they wouldn't have lasted even without deregulation. The differing attitude of people towards buses here and in America compared with mainland Europe started in the 1950s at least and deregulation didn't effect it at all, indeed it's only a few of the more progressive companies that have tried to move bus travel out from the 'option of last resort' level to one where it can be sold to people as an option. If deregulation hadn't happened when it did it would have happened later either during the previous conservative administration or the current one.
    If it hadn't happened at all some of the metropolitan areas might now have slightly better bus usage levels but would it actually effect congestion; no because none of the councils, or the government, have wanted to stop promoting car use until fairly recently and most of them are reluctant to even start trying to curb it now. It dosent matter who runs the buses, if the country/government dosent want to give them priority and put extra money into them then things wont change.
     
  5. Stan Drews

    Stan Drews Member

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    I don’t believe that the deregulation of the bus industry has had anything to do with the chronic increase in congestion our towns and cities have seen over the last 30 odd years.
     
  6. Megafuss

    Megafuss Member

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    No. I think the damage was done in the 60s and 70s.

    It may well be the case that we might be in a worse position than now if it were not for dereg given how some councils have been operating the Municipal operations still going (or recent sold)
     
  7. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    The regulated bus network in London was an important element in providing alternatives to driving when the congestion charge was introduced, thereby improving the ability to combat congestion and making the charge more acceptable. This cost a lot in subsidy but any other strategy to reduce congestion would most certainly taken longer and probably have cost more. But it would be virtually impossible for any other city to follow the same approach in a deregulated environment, because targeting specific bus routes for subsidy and improvement would be uncompetitive. Only very blunt tools such as blanket grants to all operators would be workable.
     
  8. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Sorry but burgeoning traffic congestion was rife in the 1970s in London - hence why Green Line was progressively pared back and the ending of cross London services.

    The reality is, as others have said, is that successive governments have promoted car ownership either for vested interests (see Ernest Marples) or for wider political means. Between 1950 and 1970, car ownership in London quadrupled - in a higher regulated environment. That and the actual cost change is more pointed so since 1997, car ownership costs have got up by 40%. Both bus and rail have doubled and why...? Well, obviously it's the fat cat bosses feasting on the carcass of the proletariat, Comrade. Or is it the fact that fuel duty has been held artificially low whilst buses have lost a large chunk of BSOG and public transport operators have had to deal with increases in staff costs (pensions), legislation (RTD), more legislation (DDA), and now emissions controls that in places like Sheffield will apply to buses but NOT to private cars.

    If anyone thinks that bus deregulation is the reason behind the congestion, they want to give their head a shake.
     
  9. Surreyman

    Surreyman Member

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    Car ownership (Or active operation i.e leasing) has over time become more affordable in real terms for most people, our 'aspirational' society considers running at least one car as the 'norm'.
    Even a serious economic downturn will only reduce car usage slightly.
    Governments can make motoring much more expensive through increases in taxation, (direct and indirect) Insurance, road charging etc but are reluctant to do so because it doesn't do much for votes!
    It's interesting how some of the local authorities planning low emission zones have backed down from placing too many restrictions on private cars.
    As for retaining a 'Regulated' bus system, I suspect that even under a long term traditional Labour Government, some degree of de-regulation would have been inevitable (Express coaches being the most obvious example).
     
  10. Non Multi

    Non Multi Member

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    It's the late 1970's, you're waiting for an NBC Alder Valley bus to commute to work. It fails to turn up... Again due to a chronic bus driver shortage. You have 2 choices; (A) stick with the bus and hope things improve and improve rapidly, or (B) learn to drive and drive to work, keeping your sanity and your job. Many bus commuters chose B, and 40 years later there's multiple cars on most driveways, and an infrequent midibus service on what remains of the local bus network.
     
  11. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    Car *ownership* is not the main problem, it is car *usage*. In most western countries, cars are easily affordable by most people. For example, Switzerland has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world, yet achieves high modal share for public transport.
     
  12. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    Yes but in the U.K., we have historically promoted both at the expense of public transport, through planning guidelines and road building schemes.

    This is being perpetuated with the various LEZs where buses have to meet stringent controls or be charged whilst private cars...well take Sheffield
    “We are not currently planning to charge private cars for entering the city centre. Private cars make up 80% of road traffic, but only contribute 50% of the pollution.

    Buses, HGVs and taxis are responsible for half of our air pollution but only make up 20% of traffic and, by focussing on them, we can reduce air pollution as quickly as possible.”

    Deregulation.....congestion? Minimal factor.
     
  13. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I don't disagree with any of that. But it doesn't negate my point that improvements to the regulated bus network were an important part of the package that successfully reduced congestion in central London, and that it would be very difficult for anywhere else to replicate that without regulation.
     
  14. A0wen

    A0wen Established Member

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    You've got to look at the size of the country though to understand some of that. Switzerland is relatively small at about 42,000 sq km, whereas the UK is 270,000 sq km. And the bulk of the Swiss population is in the northern half of the country which is less mountainous. It's far easier to achieve high bus usage rates in small areas with relatively high population density where people aren't looking to travel as far.
     
  15. TheGrandWazoo

    TheGrandWazoo Veteran Member

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    The OP was asking whether congestion would have been markedly less pronounced had deregulation not taken place. That is simply not the case as the direction of travel has been clear since the 1950s and deregulation (and the period 1986-91) was merely a blip.

    Now London is always pointed as an exemplar in the UK and yes, if you have increased spending on public transport, you will make it more attractive to users and reduce car usage, especially if you also limit or discourage car usage. London used the carrot and stick of better public transport vs. the congestion charge to that end.

    However, the view that it would be difficult nay impossible to improve the situation without re-regulating buses is simply not the case. Your experience in Nottingham is probably testimony to that where public transport usage is increasing despite the travails of the retail sector. This is because the local politicians have had the vision to invest in the tram network but also improve bus priority and improve reliability whilst also seeking to dissuade car usage.

    Introducing well designed bus priority isn't dependent on a regulated bus network. Planning conditions for new developments that have public transport at their core aren't dependent on a regulated bus network. For a time in early 2018, I was regularly travelling into the centre of Bristol using the Park and Ride - a commercial service (I believe) operated by First. Bus priority out of the site and for the next half mile (peak hours only mind) but then the road network conspires to halt the progress whilst a lane swap into the regular traffic takes place. Then a grind through a local centre where the road could be expanded to allow a bus lane but no, can't deprive the bathroom showroom and various takeaways of the ability to park right outside. The bus climbs to rejoin a bus lane, again peak hours only, and then rejoins the regular traffic. Again, the road network is tricky but then when it does open out, that space is allocated to car owners to park their car outside a selection of Victorian villas converted into flats. Those problems would beset any vehicle, regulated or otherwise.

    There is a local politico looking to make their name in Bristol who is actively promoting reregulation on the back of the poor performance of First West of England. The metrobus has had major problems this week and why.....? Because the local authorities have removed sections of bus lane to accommodate roadworks so the buses are stuck in the traffic that metrobus was supposed to transcend!
     
  16. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    It is widely assumed in the English speaking world that you need high densities for public transport. This book

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transport-Suburbia-Beyond-Automobile-Age/dp/1844077403

    blows that out of the water. It shows that good public transport mode share is achieved in Switzerland even in areas of low density. It also confirms that densities in British towns are very high by international standards, and thus the mode share achieved in Britain is very poor by comparison. England has a higher population density than any other European country other than the Netherlands and microstates. Most people do most of their day to day travel within their local area (say within 100 km of home) so size of the country is largely irrelevant, and in any case there is a fair amount of travel across the Swiss border.
     

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