Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-217)|
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
200. Have you ever done an estimate of how many
hours you have spent and whether or not you got the Challenge
Fund at the end of it?
201. I do not think we have actually sat down
and done that. In Oxfordshire's case, we probably submitted something
like 20-30 Rural Bus Challenge Fund bids. We got four awarded
all in the same year which gave us a particular problem: other
years we got nothing.
202. Bus lane enforcement: what can you tell
us about that?
(Mr Preston) Absolutely vital.
203. Mr Donald?
(Mr Donald) Absolutely vital.
204. Decriminalise it, and
(Mr Donald) Yes, as we say in our evidence. Understandably,
it is never going to be sufficiently high up the priorities of
the normal police force to police that, and, therefore, we think
that the best way of doing this in our areas seems to be evolving
into decriminalisation. The additional power that Government is
promising later this year is in terms of that force being able
to deal with spot fines for moving offences, at the moment they
can only deal with parking offences, and to ensure the use of
cameras both on buses and beside the bus lanes as the combination
of the way forward on that.
205. So you think Mr Spellar's remarks were
unfortunate, as reported in the Times?
(Mr Donald) You might well say that; I could not possibly
Chairman: You should always comment on Mr Spellar.
He enjoys it.
206. Quality bus partnerships: is there a problem
about getting bus companies to coordinate timetables?
(Mr Donald) Yes, because the legislation, which we
argued quite long and hard against for this very reason, does
not allow a specification of frequencies in the statutory quality
207. Right. Coventry seemed to have a slightly
different view, is that right, about this question of quality
contracts, not partnerships?
(Mr Russell) Yes, Coventry is wedded to the bus. There
is no realistic alternative to the bus for the vast majority of
people. Heavy rail plays a very small part. There is no realistic
chance of us getting a metro system in the foreseeable future,
so public transport in Coventry rests on buses, and, to a very
small extent, on taxis, so we actually see that what we want to
do is to have a twin approach. The City Council, through the LTP,
is making a major bid for an enhancement of the network with all
the physical improvements that is necessaryshowcase, super
showcase; we are going for decriminalisation. We are working with
the PTA and CENTRO on Smartcard in terms of technological improvements.
We see that as the only way we can then guarantee the quality
efficiency in timeliness of the services on those routes, and
that is what we want, that is what passengers stood at bus stops
want, they want guarantees, and our view is the only way that
we can guarantee those services for the reasons in our evidence,
it is a contract, not a partnership.
208. If you can arrange those standards, would
it not be reasonable to say that the bus companies can change
their timetable twice a year, like railways, rather than every
(Mr Russell) It would be reasonable, yes.
209. Is there any reason why you would not want
to, say, have timetables that lasted for six months?
(Mr Russell) Again, it is down to what passengers
want. Passengers expect buses to turn up at certain times. Passengers
are fairly conservative. I think that frequent changes of times
is the thing
210. Yes, it is boring to want things to turn
up on time when you are waiting for public transport. I had not
regarded that as conservative.
(Mr Newson) Can I add a view on that, because I think
they are both points that I have made in my written evidence.
Dealing with the second one first, the timetable issue, we feel
very strongly that we should be restricted on the dates on which
timetables can be changed. The public know that a timetable is
valid until a certain date, and they have that confidence.
211. So the confidence is a date rather thanand
I think some of you suggested if it went from 56 days to 84, that
would solve the problem. What you would really like to have is
that it can only change the timetable on certain days in the year?
(Mr Newson) That sounds like my evidence you have
been reading, and I make both points in a different context. The
timetable date is important for the public confidence so they
do not turn up and find the service has changed and they did not
know anything about it. If they know the date of a timetable change
is due, people will check to see if the services have changed.
It gives them that chance. The 84 days point was in relation to
the time that we believe we need to actually respond to commercial
withdrawals and arrange consultation and put replacement services
in place. The 56 days, although it is better than 42 days, do
not allow us to go through that process of consultation first.
212. Do you think even when a published timetable
is there, the commercial operator should be able to withdraw in
a shorter period than the published timetable covers?
(Mr Newson) No. If you were fixed to the dates, clearly
that would not be the case. They are two different things. If
we had a fixed timetable date, then the requirements of the notice
period would obviously have to adjust to reflect that. 1
(Mr Donald) I would add that the stability in the
marketplace is also related to the costs of providing much better
information, not least at bus stops, that we all want to see.
So there is a correlation there as well in terms of efficiency
and cost efficiencies.
213. But how often is the PTE cost really openly
identified for those sorts of thingsnew information, services,
reprinting of timetables?
1 Note by witness: We would like fixed service
change dates, but we would still wish to have a minimum of 84
days notice ahead of these dates, to enable us to put in place
replacement services, where the planned changes involve retiming
or withdrawal of journeys.
(Mr Donald) Openly identified in terms
of can we please specify there is the cost? No, that can be done,
and that is done as part of the accounts that we produce.
214. And that is part of your negotiation with
the companies, do you think?
(Mr Donald) The point I was making there was on the
issue of if we live, as you do, in a deregulated market with a
degree of continual service change, as well as agreeing entirely
with what has been said in terms of the importance of stability
from a passenger point of view, we are making, I have to say,
slow progress in all the PTE areas in terms of developing improved
bus passenger information, again, under the powers in the Act.
I think part of that is a realisation of the high cost of not
just putting the information out, but maintaining it in a continually
flowing situation in terms of changes in timetables.
(Mr Newson) Can I just add Oxfordshire's experience.
We have stopped trying to attempt to provide coordinated timetable
215. So you do not even bother?
(Mr Newson) We do not attempt to because it is out
of date before we have printed it.
216. It must add a nice element of indecision
to deciding whether or not you want to go on a bus.
(Mr Newson) This is true, and this is why I am arguing
the case for clear dates. The timetable
217. I have to say, when I went to school in
Oxfordshire, we knew exactly when the buses were going to turn
up. Gentlemen, is there anything else particularly that you would
like to say to us? Is there any aspect of concessionary fares
schemes you want changed?
(Mr Donald) As we have said earlier, we spend almost
£200 million per year in the PT areas funding concessionary
travel. It does seem very strange to us, given the other Public/Private
Partnerships we are involved in in various ways that the public
sector is not even able to specify the quality of service that
the passengers, of whom it is paying, actually get in various
ways. They cannot specify that at all.
Chairman: Gentlemen, you have been very helpful,
and I am very, very grateful to you. Thank you very much.