Memorandum by Ray Wilkes Esq (Bus 28)
THE UK BUS
1. In recent years much publicity has been
given to new services operating under Rural Bus Grant. This initiative
is to be welcomed, but in practice many such services have been
2. Many of the Rural Bus Grant (RBG) services
have very tiny markets of potential users, most of whom have not
used public transport for many years. It is therefore unsurprising
that many RBG schemes have failed to attract sufficient patronage
and have been withdrawn after their initial trial periods. Whilst
local authorities have been devoting resources to such schemes,
including the appointment of Rural Partnership Officers etc, the
support for existing conventional bus services has been declining.
This has led to the withdrawal of many previously commercial and
tendered services that would have carried far more passengers
than the RBG schemes. Many local authorities are now saying that
their transport budgets are under pressure, which coupled with
the increasing cost of recruiting and retaining bus drivers, means
that a large number of bus services are under threat. Priority
must be given to the maintenance and development of existing services,
in preference to the development of entirely new schemes in very
3. It is important to provide public transport
facilities seven days a week, daytime and evenings. There are
many routes in the Yorkshire area that have relatively frequent
weekday daytime services, but no provision at all other times.
This does not tackle car-dependency, nor provide social inclusion.
Therefore priority should be given to the provision of subsidies
to allow a comprehensive service to be provided along such routes.
4. However, subsidy should be regarded as
a hand up not a hand outif bus services are doing a good
job in the context of an integrated and sustainable transport
policy, they should be viable or nearly so.
5. Quality partnerships and contracts have
much to offer in terms of obtaining additional funding for public
transport infrastructure, which is much needed. However, increased
regulation of bus services through quality contracts may not necessarily
help, as this may stifle the imagination and flair of the good
operators. Many local authorities have not been good at regulating
bus companies or administrating quality contracts. Local Authorities
are under great pressure and often there are too many very difficult
economic and political decisions to be made. Should more be spent
on transport or social services, education etc? Should a vociferous
group of residents be able to divert a bus route to the detriment
of a majority? However, local authorities can help the bus user
if their tendering policies are customer focused. Please see Appendix
4. [In case we sound too harsh about politicians running the buses,
we would take an equally jaundiced view if a bus company sought
to run the council! Politicians are valued by people who value
democracyand I do.]
6. The commercial motive is very important
in the provision of high quality bus servicesoperators
have to be kept on their toes. Only best practice will tempt motorists
from their cars. Local authorities are subject to political pressures
that do not readily translate into the provision of a high quality
service that people actually want to travel on, as opposed to
a service that they travel on because they have no other alternative.
Quality is always better; a high quality frequent route that attracts
all sectors of society will be financially self-sufficient, giving
good quality transport to everyone. This is social inclusion.
Unfortunately many bus companies fail to provide a sufficiently
high standard to attract a broad cross-section of society to use
their services. It is worth noting here the example of Blazefield's
Harrogate & District, which provides a high quality service
on the wholly commercial Leeds to Ripon service attracting many
affluent passengers, and creating a high standard of socially-inclusive
transport provision, at no cost to the tax-payer.
7. One of the main aims of regulation should
be to set minimum standards. In particular, bus companies should
be required to meet the following standards:
Drivers to be given advanced driver
training, not primarily for bus safety reasonssee appendix
Drivers to be given customer care
New low floor easy access buses to
be introduced at an increased rate
All new buses to have CCTVsee
All new buses to have catalytic after
Good quality timetables and road
side publicity to be producedsee Appendix 2
the extent to which this should be
encouraged by incentives such as grants and tax breaks
how these changes should be phased
8. Bus companies should be encouraged to
produce plans to progressively improve services so that:
daytime frequencies operate from
07.00 till 19.00 to fully cater for all daytime workers
evening and Sunday services operate
at last half daytime frequency to cater for shift workers and
provide proper leisure and social opportunities to everyone.
9. Where off-peak services cannot be provided
commercially the services should be run at marginal cost with
the local authorities making up any deficit. However, there should
be joint action on marketing and publicity to bring the services
into commercial operation or to reduce subsidy levels.
10. Rural Areas. In most rural areas services
had been run down over recent decades to a point where support
would be needed. However, if a well thought out and well promoted
integrated quality service for residents, schoolchildren and visitors
was provided, many routes could be revived to commercial operation
over the next five years.
11. Phasing in high standards of road safety
and pedestrian and cycling priority will also shift the balance
away from cars and towards public transport. Any sustainable transport
policy and any successful policy to help the socially excluded
will require good standards of road safety. The present road safety
standards are unacceptable on safety and environmental grounds.
They militate against public transport, walking and cycling.
12. The select committee should recommend
a reasonable financial and legal framework for these changes to
occur, with appropriate roles for bus companies, local authorities
and the Traffic Commissioners.
13. Despite the concerns raised earlier,
local authorities can massively contribute to good quality services:
They can provide high quality bus
stations/interchanges, eg Metro's excellent bus stations in West
They can provide a comprehensive
network of tendered services filling the gaps in commercial services,
demanding high standards in terms of vehicles, driver training,
joint ticketing etc.
They can provide good bus priorityvital
for attractive bus services and good vehicle utilisation. Without
it, costs go up while revenue goes downthe vicious circle
They can enforce speed limits
and provide safe road crossings so that people can safely access
public transport. The walk to the bus stop is essential exercise
and health carebut if the roads are not safe the use of
a car will be sought, adding to the problem.
They can help with publicity and
They can help with green transport
14. Bus priority measures are absolutely
essential to allow the operation of effective, attractive bus
services amidst the increasing gridlock of many urban areas. Present
measures are both insufficient and insufficiently enforced. There
is a requirement for greater funding for such schemes, both for
their design and implementation, but also for ongoing enforcement.
15. The role of central government agencies
in the regulation of the bus industry requires urgent change in
16. Firstly, the Office of Fair Trading
is very keen to ensure that companies compete rather than co-operate
with each other. Unfortunately, they have sought to apply their
standardised philosophy to the bus industry where instead of improving
the passenger's lot, they have achieved the opposite result. In
many areas more than one operator shares a section of route, with
each operator running relatively infrequently. The passenger would
like to be able to buy a return ticket which is valid for return
on either company's buses. However, the OFT have indicated that
this is anti-competitive and many joint ticketing arrangements
have recently been terminated through fear of prosecution. Joint
ticketing arrangements are often very useful and should be encouraged.
The OFT should exempt the bus industry from such regulation as
an urgent priority.
17. Secondly, the Traffic Commissioners
have recently introduced new standards for timekeeping, in an
attempt to make bus services more reliable and hence attractive
to new users. Unfortunately this policy has not been carefully
thought through, and it is in fact having a detrimental effect
on the provision of high quality bus services.
18. The level of unpredictable congestion
on Britain's roads is such that it is frequently impossible to
accurately predict the exact time that a particular journey will
take. In order to meet the required performance targets bus operators
will be forced to take the "lowest common denominator"
and schedule their services for the slowest possible traffic conditions.
On most days the traffic will move faster, but the bus will be
required to "wait for time", creating unacceptable delays
and frustration for many passengers. In addition to the allocation
of more resources for bus priority measures, it is also necessary
for the Traffic Commissioners to urgently introduce a more realistic
performance measure for bus operators, which is actually acting
in the passengers' interests rather than against them as at present.
19. The present TC policy of fining bus
companies for delays caused by traffic congestion punishes bus
users twice over. Their journeys are delayed and then they have
to bear the costs of the fines in increased fares, reduced services
or slower fleet modernisation.
20. Safety regulation is also a key issue
for the bus industry. Although buses provide the safest form of
travel, equivalent to rail, a large number of low-cost operators
on school contracts give serious cause for concern. This not only
endangers the lives of our most precious bus cargo, it makes it
difficult and expensive to provide quality tendered bus services.
Carting children around in sub-standard vehicles with badly behaved
children setting the general standards, puts children off public
transport for life. Local authorities should be required to specify
safe, modern buses with on-board CCTV so that decent discipline
standards can be enforced.
21. Following on from the fact that, apart
from some low-cost operators, buses are the safest and best maintained
vehicles on the road, it should be borne in mind that buses are
not responsible for the 10 deaths and 100 serious injuries on
our roads every day. Increased regulation of buses, in the absence
of proper regulation of other road vehicles will cause a switch
away from buses (due to increased costs) to more dangerous forms
22. For instance, the Traffic Commissioners
regulate Heavy Goods Vehicles. The majority of these vehicles
are run by responsible companies whose quality standards are similar
to the best bus companies. However, a significant minority, quite
large in absolute numbers operate to lower standards.
23. Buses are often held up by:
HGV vehicles parking at bus stops
or in bus lanes while drivers check their route.
Manoeuvres such as U-turns at inappropriate
places after route checking.
Unacceptable levels of breakdownsmuch
more frequent than the rare bus breakdown and causing much more
Serious accidents, such as a lorry
tipping over happen at unacceptable frequenciesthe frequency
of such an event should be zero.
Flouting of loading and parking restrictions
by commercial vehicles is widespread.
Why should bus companies be fined for the inevitable
consequences of poor commercial vehicle regulation?
24. Most vehicles are regulated even less
than HGVs and cause even greater problems for buses and their
25. Of course punctuality and reliability
are essential features of a quality bus service, however, partnerships
are required for this and each partner must deliver. There is
no rationality or user benefit in tough regulation of one party
26. All regulation should be thought out
very carefully to ensure that it is customer focused. The regulations
should be monitored so that they can be modified if there are
unforeseen negative consequences for customers.
27. Regulation should also be thought out
to minimise economic costs to the bus companies as these also
have an adverse consequence for bus users. Nevertheless, some
forms of regulation can improve the economics, for instance high-standard
of driver training and good management of vehicle maintenance.
28. The main points have already been discussed.
Two points need emphasis:
The provision of effective public
transport is very important in tackling social exclusion, but
this is best achieved through seeking to provide a high standard
of provision for everyone, rather than purely focusing on provision
for the socially excluded. Social inclusion is all social classes
using the bus, not just the ones who cannot afford a car.
It is important in tackling social
exclusion that car-dependency is also tackled through the provision
of bus services whenever people want to travel, including evenings
APPENDIX 1. BENEFITS
Improved driver safety, morale and
Perceived and actual passenger safety
is improved leading to better patronage.
Reduction of vehicle vandalism.
An unexpected benefit is the ability
to prove that many claims from passengers or other drivers against
bus companies are dubious or fraudulent. Consequently the economic
benefit to a bus company is much greater than might be expected.
The footage is also very useful to
the police in the event of crime near the vehicle. This can lead
to the police being much more supportive of the bus industry and
APPENDIX 2. A TIMETABLE
It would be useful if a couple of select committee
members could travel on this service and then meet the operator
to discuss how all bus users could have this quality of service.
Note that the timetable is clear, easy to understand, includes
maps and tourist information and is also aesthetic and interesting.
In November 1998 the daytime frequency was increased
from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. The Sunday period of operation
was made earlier from about 10.00 to about 7.30. In 2001 the Sunday
daytime frequency was doubled from hourly to half hourly. No quality
contract or subsidy was required.
There are other good operators. What is required
is that all operators are brought up to high standards using partnerships
and intelligent regulation.
APPENDIX 3. SOME
Often, local authorities try to include too
much mileage on tendered services. This results in late running
and uncomfortable journeys. They also sometimes try to serve too
many communities with one service leading to slow circuitous journeys.
Low patronage and poor value for money usually results.
Specifying easy-access buses will ensure that
elderly people and parents with young children will be more likely
to choose a bus rather than use a car or beg a lift, again giving
value for money and ensuring that the buses reduce social exclusion
for those who have no access to a car.
Local authorities need to be aware of the fact
that buses have a "brand" value. People are aware that
particular bus companies serve particular routes and territories.
If the contract is awarded to an "out of area" company,
people are likely to think that it is on private hire rather operating
a bus service. Often there is strong brand loyalty to a bus company
and this is an important factor in the success of tendered services.
If the local company is really too expensive or cannot provide
the quality, it must be recognised that having an "out-of-area"
operator requires much more publicity and marketing for the services
Having different peak and off-peak operators
is confusing for bus users. It is particularly counter-productive
if the off-peak operator is a low-cost operator. It is then harder
for the daytime operator to develop the service so that at some
future time full commercial responsibility can be assumed for
the off-peak services.
When tendering for rural services, local authorities
need to take account of the needs of visitors as well as residents,
thereby enhancing the economics of the service.
Community Transport Services can complement
normal bus services or undermine them depending on how they are
managed. The award-winning Harrogate Area Community Transport
is an excellent example of community transport/local operator
APPENDIX 4. THE
The main benefits are much higher safety standards.
Although this is the most important reason for training at-work
drivers, buses already have high safety standards. However, there
are also compelling economic reasons for advanced driver training.
1. Reduced fuel consumptionmore than
one study (below) indicates an average of 7 per cent. This saving
alone would return many subsidised services to the commercial
sector. Air pollution is reduced.
2. Significantly reduced maintenance cost.
Reduced brake and tyre wear reduces dirt and pollution.
3. Significantly reduced vehicle damage
and improved fleet appearance.
4. Reduced insurance cost.
5. Improved staff morale and staff retention.
6. Reduced accidents.
Illness-related absenteeism is reduced by 5
Additional benefits for bus and taxi operators:
Increased passenger confidence, greatly
increased passenger comfort, leading to increased patronage.
Good public relations-positive message
to media on the bus industry commitment to road safety and improved
road environment. Moral high ground when seeking improved bus
Some bus companies take the view that NVQ (which
is more focused on customer care than advanced driving) is more
appropriate for the bus industry. However, the two are not mutually
exclusive. The Institute of Advanced Motorist qualification has
more resonance with the media and the public and gives more status
to the driver. However, NVQ gives an opportunity to make the advanced
driver training more relevant to the bus industry and to deal
with regional variations can be a problem with the Advanced Motorist
NEWS Transport, a road haulier operating 10
large goods vehicles and five cars carried out an assessment in
1990 of their accident, repair and associated costs. They found
these to be around £64,000 and set about putting in place
measures to reduce these overheads. They introduced a structured
one-to-one driver training programme, added vehicle safety measures
and better managed driving schedules. As a result, they have enjoyed
nine continuous years of no insurance claims, less garage down
time and seen the residual value of their vehicles maximised.
Bell and Howell, a document management company,
ran a fleet of 250 vehicles when, in the early 1990s, they conducted
a review of their accident claims history. They found that many
of their 180 claims were for fairly minor collisions that nonetheless
amounted to a hefty insurance bill. They introduced measures to
increase individual choice of vehicle and more responsibility
for bearing the cost when drivers were found to be at fault, supported
by driver training. This programme increased the sense of ownership
of employees towards their vehicles. Five years after the programme
was introduced, claims fell from £812 per vehicle to £211
During the 1980s, Leo Pharmaceuticals experienced
mounting insurance costs from its fleet of 170 vehicles. In response
they initiated better driver training, greater employee education
and individual responsibility, gained senior management commitment
and resources, appropriate vehicle selection criteria and regular
servicing and maintenance. The effect was dramatic. For example,
over a three-year period, £35,000 was saved in insurance
premiums. A much improved fleet safety culture has raised standards
all round and line managers are able to monitor performance not
least through petrol consumption, tyre and brake wear and general
For detailed case study of energy efficiency,
staff morale, cost and accident reduction at McKelvie and Co Trucks
see case study 311 ETSU, Harwell, OC11 ORA, [email protected]