Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-109)|
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
100. Good, and you have not had your attention
(Mr Clayton) We had, in fact, but perhaps now is not
the time to go into the details.
101. Can I ask the three companies about bus
patronage and discounted fares. Forgive my ignorance if I ask
a very basic question, but are there any regions covered by any
of your companies where there are free fares offered, for example,
to senior citizens as a discounted fare?
(Mr Clayton) Liverpool have free fares.
102. And the other two?
(Mr Clayton) And London, of course.
(Mr Lockhead) No, ours are a proportion of the adult
fare, either 50 per cent, or a fixed amount in relation to that.
(Mr Cochrane) That is the same with us, and that proportion
will vary from County and local authority to local authority.
103. In Northern Ireland last year, we introduced
a scheme of free fares for senior citizens, and that has shown
initially, albeit within a 12 month period, a very significant
increase in bus patronage. I am just wondering if the issue itself
has been raised, maybe not by you, but by others, in terms of
the possibility of expanding the existing scheme?
(Mr Cochrane) I think the broader concept of discounted
fares is something that we all are keen to encourage. Right across
our network there are many examples of where we have discounted
fares significantly and seen substantial passenger volume growth
on the back of that, either by introducing discounted network-wide
tickets or individual single tickets. It is interesting to note
that the Welsh scheme that was introduced, which involves discounted
concessionary fares for Welsh senior citizens from 1 April this
year. We are seeing that buses are packed at this point in time
and, therefore, we are seeing a significant uptake in volumes
on our Welsh operation in the short space of time that that service
has been operating. So there is a clear linkage between fares
and volume, and it is getting that balance right for us to stimulate
and sustain patronage growth in the longer term.
(Mr Lockhead) The research that we have done suggests
that price is not the main barrier to getting out of your car
and using buses. It usually is dependability of the service and
knowledge of the service: how it runs; how often it runs; when
you get to the stop, how long you are going to have to wait.
104. First of all, do you see yourselves in
competition with trains and trams, or complementary to them?
(Mr Lockhead) Complementary. We integrate with trams
and trains as a general principle.
105. Are you sure that happens in practice?
(Mr Lockhead) If we go back to the Sheffield situation,
we are investing heavily in buses in Sheffield. I am sorry the
lady Member left.
106. Not personal, actually, Mr Lockhead.
(Mr Lockhead) That is servicing both the bus network
and making sure that the tram network benefits from that, so there
is a combined effect.
107. And the other question. As far as a lot
of local authorities are putting in raised bus stops, if they
put in raised bus stops to make it easy for low access vehicles
and disabled people to get on, should they be able to ban operators
who do not have low access vehicles from those routes?
(Mr Lockhead) It is an interesting point. In fact,
in the Statutory Quality Partnership that is part of the contract,
that if the operator and the local authority sign up to doing
certain things, then only those operators that comply are allowed
in, so you are right, there is nothing to stop that happening.
It is there now. We should be using it now.
108. Do you think it would be a good idea?
(Mr Lockhead) I see nothing wrong with it, providing
it does not get rid of competition. It creates, in some ways,
a barrier to entry to those people who cannot raise the cash to
buy new buses, but then if you want to raise quality, then maybe
that is worth paying.
109. So if you want to raise quality, what about
these yellow School buses? They are going to make it more and
more difficult for mobility impaired youngsters to get on and
off them, are they not, because they tend to be old buses?
(Mr Lockhead) I will talk about the American School
bus which we are introducing in this country, and that is just
the opposite. They are new vehicles; they are dedicated services
to get children to school. In America, they are the safest and
securest way of taking children to school, and we want to use
that here. In America, they use those for wheelchair passengers
by putting lifts on them.
Chairman: I am sorry. I am going to have to
stop you there. Gentlemen, you have been very tolerant. I think
we might send you a few questions, but you have been allowed to
escape. The Committee stands adjourned for 15 minutes.
The Committee suspended from 4.55 pm to 5.08
pm for a division in the House