pteg welcomes bus report from CfIT

Monday, July 5, 2004

pteg has welcomed a new report  by the Commission for Integrated Transport, on encouraging better delivery of local bus services.

Rob Donald, Director General of Centro, takes the lead for pteg on bus issues:

‘This report is a useful contribution to the debate which has thrown out some challenging recommendations. The report provides a daunting summary of the scale of the problems facing an industry that, outside London, has been in steep decline.

Since the bus industry was deregulated in 1985 bus use outside London is down by a third.’

‘The vast majority of public transport trips in the regions are made by bus and there isn’t a hope of the Government achieving its wider goals for regional economic competitiveness and social inclusion, unless the bus industry can be turned around to provide a really high quality service that can attract more motorists out of their cars.’

‘Some of the report’s recommendations would go a long way towards reversing that decline. For example bus priority measures are vital – which is why the PTEs’ local authority partners continue to invest millions in bus priority every year.’

‘However, we would liked to have seen stronger emphasis from CfIT on the importance of integrated transport networks, as well as on tackling issues like cancellation levels, and inflation-plus fares rises. Sometimes all these things can be achieved through voluntary agreement with operators – but experience shows that often they can’t.’

‘Bus services need to continue to be provided largely by the private sector. Local politicians need to provide vision and leadership on the transport system to meet local needs – as happens in London and across Europe. This does require a greater say for the public sector outside London in determining the bus network and in ensuring the highest quality of service provision. This would provide a real basis for partnership and reverse the bus patronage declines over nearly twenty years of bus deregulation.’

Rob Donald also challenged CfIT’s assumptions on the cost of implementing quality contracts:

‘We are disappointed to see that the report systematically over-estimates the likely cost to PTEs of administering a quality contract scheme. PTEs already administer thousands of tendered bus contracts and are involved in information and ticketing. There would be no need to take on the numbers of staff projected by the report in order to administer a quality bus contract. Especially when it is unlikely that any PTE quality contract would be as prescriptive as the London system on which the report bases its assumptions.’