Not a typical bus user. At all
So when Bozo and his supposed transport supremo Grant “Spiv” Shapps told the world that, in the version published by the Murdoch Times, “Buses will be cheaper and greener”, anyone interested in improvements to local public transport should have been on their guard. Some of the claims made are just not going to happen.
This from the BBC: “Hundreds of miles of new bus lanes and price caps on tickets are being planned for England under a new bus strategy from the government … The £3bn plan will make buses across the country cheaper and easier to use, the Department for Transport said … It is promising services that are so frequent passengers will be able to ‘turn up and go’”. Those living in Crewe who don’t have a car won’t be buying that one.
But do go on. “As part of the shake-up, daily price caps will be introduced so that people can use the bus as many times a day as they need. More evening and weekend services will also be introduced, and all buses will accept contactless payment, the government pledged”. Contactless is already here, Tory people. But the rest isn’t. And won’t be.
Not without a lot of money backing up the grand ideas. So how will it all work? “It hopes to meet its targets through so-called enhanced partnerships that will see local authorities agree to make improvements to infrastructure in return for better services from bus companies. More franchising will also be introduced”. Franchising is, admittedly, good.
But the state of bus services after three and a half decades of deregulation (outside London) is so poor that making them not only convenient and affordable, but indeed a credible alternative transport mode, would be next to impossible. Turn up and go? Many inter-urban bus services in the UK run a daytime frequency of, er, hourly. Taking the train is faster and more reliable. It often, whisper it quietly, is no more expensive than the bus.
How bad is the situation? This from the Guardian back in 2014: “Bus fares outside London rose by 35% above inflation between 1995 and 2013, and by 34% in Wales and 20% in Scotland … Over the past 30 years, bus passenger journeys have plummeted outside London but grown in the capital. Overall bus use outside London has fallen by 32.5% since 1986, but risen by 99% in London”. The wonders of deregulation. Tory deregulation.
Also, as Centre for Cities pointed out in 2019, London’s estimated net public support for local bus services in 2018 was over £650 million. That for the former Metropolitan County areas (now with their own ITAs) was in the noise floor by comparison, with Greater Manchester somewhere around the £25 million mark. You want to move the punters on to public transport, you have to subsidise it. Making pronouncements won’t cut it.
It would need that £3 billion year-in, year-out to make buses credible and convenient. The reality, as ever with the Tories, is that they will talk the talk, but no more. You wouldn’t buy a used car from Bozo and “Spiv” Shapps. Don’t expect their buses to turn up, either.
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