New research by Transport for Quality of Life (TfQL), in advance of the forthcoming Government ‘Buses Bill’ due to be published next month, says that giving the rest of Britain the same powers over local bus services as London would immediately generate savings sufficient to restore all the damaging cuts to bus services caused by austerity budgets since 2010.
The report, Building a World-class Bus System for Britain argues that net financial gains of £340m per year could be made if London-style bus franchising replaced the present commercial free-for-all in the rest of Britain. Immediate gains would be made by capturing the ‘excess profit’ above the levels in London, and from local authorities being able to cost-effectively design the whole bus network rather than inefficiently filling gaps after commercial operators have cherry-picked the prime routes.
Report author, Ian Taylor, said, “We found that, over a 10 year period, bus companies in the big cities other than London made average profits of over 8% of turnover, and in non-metropolitan areas the figure was 6%, whereas in London, where services are regulated, average profit levels were less than 4%. This means that bus companies in the metropolitan areas are raking off twice the share that they do in London.”
Says TfQL: “With new powers, local authorities would be able to design coherent, unified bus networks with easy-to-use universally accepted ticketing, that would make bus travel easier and more attractive than the present mish-mash of competing operators with mutually incompatible routes and tickets. This would attract more people to use buses, as has happened in London, raising the revenue from fares and over time providing additional funding for new services over and above the restored
“The present system of bus governance in most of Britain allows bus companies to draw heavily on public finances without being held to account for how they spend that money,” says TfQL. “Of the £2.4bn that was paid to bus companies from the public purse in 2013/14, less than half, £1bn paid by local authorities for gap-filling services, had conditions attached specifying the services that the bus companies must run in order to receive it. The remainder goes on subsidising whatever services the privatised bus companies decide to run on a supposedly ‘commercial’ basis.”
Ian continued: “The fight is on for the future of our bus system. The next year will show whether our bus system is going to continue to be organised to maximise corporate profit or whether it will be redesigned to maximise the benefit to the public.”
The report recommends that in its forthcoming Buses Bill the Government should make franchising the default option for local authorities and beyond that should provide powers for all local authorities to establish not-for dividend
bus companies to run all their local bus services without profit leakage.
The report can be downloaded by visiting http://www.transportforqualityoflife.com