Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Prospects for 2010

Once the operators are clear of the immediate imperative of making things happen in adverse weather conditions (I am trying to avoid being tempted to be sidetracked into this subject) there are several strategic issues which will arise this year.

Today it is announced that Quality Contracts are coming, and these will restore some order into bus operation. This is an opportunity for local authorities to start 'encouraging' integration in ways which have not been entirely practical for nearly thirty years. We wait with eager anticipation to see how many of them do.

One of the things which worries me about buses compared with trains is that while trains generally operate during the waking day, many bus services operate only during the working day. It is possible to get almost anywhere by bus, but very often impossible to return the same day, so many potential bus users have to resort to the car, however unwillingly. In 1930 the newly-appointed traffic commissioners were expected to require the holders of road service licences to operate a proportion of 'unremunerative mileage' such as evening services in return for effective monopolies on the routes for which they were granted licences. The commissioners failed to do this, as they failed in so many other things, and since 1986 it has been solely the responsibility of the local authorities to subsidise non-commercial services. Perhaps this is their chance to do what the traffic commissioners failed to do 80 years ago.

There are several other nettles which might be grasped quite soon. Don't miss the next thrilling instalment.

John Wylde

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