3 Jun 2008

37 bus cuts: subsidy system needs overhaul

Here is my letter today to local press re the 37 bus:

Cartoon: Bush has run out of corners to hide and last week admitted climate change was largely man-made - it is time he now admitted Peak Oil.

The reduced 37 bus service resulting from the dispute over subsidies between the District Council and Stagecoach is worrying. The Council's positive approach to 'bus pass' passengers, like not having time restrictions like other authorities, seems to be leading Stagecoach to claim too many passengers are using their buses.

The District Council are spending just under £1m on bus passes/tokens and have issued over 13,000 bus passes. This is way up on last year and the Council are now subsidising fares in excess of central government funding.

Bus subsides in England now amount to around £2.5 billion pa and that the bus operators are making super-profits out of subsidies and concessionary fares. Indeed they are making far more money compared to their capital investments than in any other sector including water, electricity and gas. The whole bus subsidy system is a dog’s dinner. Privatisation was a mistake. We are the laughing stock of Europe: wasting huge amounts of money and getting very little back by way of quality services. Things have to change.

In Denmark the system is based on strict quality control and bus operators get rewarded if they provide things like new vehicles, punctuality, reliability, high quality interchange, ticketing offers, cleanliness and security. If they fail they get fined. We must link subsidy to outcomes so that operators get it if they do good and not otherwise.

The Government are consulting at the moment on this issue: there has never been a more urgent time with rising fuel prices and climate change to get our public transport system sorted.

Cllr. Philip Booth,
Stroud District councillor for the Randwick, Ruscombe and Whiteshill ward

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