Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Fife Council (IT 115)


  Fife Council has for many years placed a strong emphasis on the promotion of public transport services. Prior to deregulation a fares freeze was in place for several years which led to a stable public transport network and a significant increase in the number of fare paying passengers. Following deregulation in 1986 there was stability of fares and patronage but with a requirement for increased finance to support the public transport operations through private operators. In recent years we have seen the consolidation within Fife of a major bus operator virtually acting in a monopoly situation facing little competition. As a result of this and the growth in car usage within Fife, there has been a marginal deterioration of the services, frequent increase in fares followed by significant reductions in the numbers of fare paying passengers.

  It certainly was hoped that the White Paper would allow us to tackle these circumstances through network franchising, however this is not the proposal contained within the White Paper. In general Fife Council welcomes the change of direction contained within the White Paper away from "predict and provide" towards the development of a more sustainable integrated transport strategy. If less capital monies are being made available for the development of infrastructure and the strategy development is taking a change of direction then it surely must follow that there is a requirement for increased revenue to support the alternative mode, i.e., public transport operations. While the opportunity exists to raise additional revenues within the larger conurbations, no such opportunity exists within the non-city and rural Councils with towns in the order of up to 50,000 population. Road pricing obviously is not applicable, nor is the significant increase in parking charges when the town centres are faced with a deterioration in their overall environment and competition from the recent development of out of town shopping centres where no parking charging levies will be possible.

  In the Fife context we will have to rely more on encouragement and the provision of better alternative facilities for bus, cycling and walking to see some change in modal split. Consequently the contents of the quality partnerships/quality contracts in relation to bus operations is of great importance. If this "daughter" paper does not have the powers to deal with the issues described in this letter then it is clear that the achievement of an integrated transport strategy in Fife will not happen, as it will fail in many other non-city and rural authorities throughout the country. There needs to be control of public transport fares; this is a key issue. Bus fares have gone up on three occasions during the last 18 months and as said there has been a significant reduction in fare paying passengers. Local authorities require some control/influence in this area to achieve the objectives of the White Paper.

  In conclusion I do believe the White Paper has made a major contribution towards a change in travel habits of the people within this country and does give the transport planners the opportunity to plan for a change of direction. However, in the non-city and rural context of Fife Council there is no question that increased revenue will be required to maintain and improve upon the level of service available for public transport users to assist in dealing with matters such as social inclusion, etc. The means of raising extra revenue is not available and consequently if the quality partnerships/quality contracts do not provide innovative means for dealing with the bus operators then Fife's ability to establish an integrated transport strategy as indicated in the White Paper will not be possible.

Alan Bryan

Head of Transportation

28 September

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