Disappointment over Competition Commission's moves to promote bus wars

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Blurred bus on nighttime street

But bus franchising option back on track

Reacting to the Competition Commission’s report on the bus industry pteg expressed disappointment that the Competition Commission (CC) has chosen to take a strong ideological line based on promoting bus wars in Britain’s busiest cities, ignoring passengers’ clear preference for integrated urban public transport with smart, simple ticketing. However, pteg also dismissed the CC’s bus war hopes as largely the stuff of fantasy as its remedies were too weak to stand a realistic chance of upsetting existing local monopolies.

Although the report’s overall central argument is weak, pteg welcomed the CC’s finding that it was ‘legitimate’ for Local Transport Authorities to seek to introduce Quality Contracts (the franchising of bus networks) and that they would not wish to prevent local transport authorities from introducing them.

The report’s recommendations on ticketing fall well short of guaranteeing passengers the smart, simple and integrated ticketing they want, but could, potentially, lead to multi-operator tickets that are priced in a more competitive way. However, the devil will be in the detail.

Jonathan Bray, Director of the pteg Support Unit, said:

‘The clue is in the name with the Competition Commission, so it’s perhaps no surprise that they continue to dream of a day when the streets of every city will be a free for all of competing bus companies. It’s not a vision we share as we believe what passengers really value in big urban areas is what they get in London – integrated public transport with smart and simple ticketing. We believe that our city streets should be served by a high quality and cohesive bus networks not turned into gridlocked bus battlefields. Nor has the Competition Commission’s vision any realistic chance of coming true based on this set of remedies.

‘However, in amongst all the dogma there is some hope for passengers in that the CC has pulled back from preventing us from using the legal tools that we already have – up to and including enforceable partnerships and the franchising of networks. There are also some potential ways forward on multi-operator ticketing. We look forward to working with OFT and the DfT to see how some of the more useful elements of this report can be taken forward.’

ENDS

pteg represents the six PTEs – which are the largest transport authorities outside London.

Half of all bus trips outside London are made in the PTEs.

For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0781 804 1485 / 0113 251 7445