Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Avril Fox (Bus 50)


  1.  Born in 1917, I am of an age to remember what a British Integrated System of Transport actually means.

  1.1  It means that from any part of this country one has access to a network of buses, coaches, trains and airports which will convey one to any other part.

  1.2  In my forties (that is, the sixties of the last century) I used such a system. It was inefficient, with long waits, but it existed.

  1.3  Such a system is now so long forgotten that intelligent young county officers of transport do not understand such a concept. When I ask why I cannot board a bus from Aylsham to go direct to Norwich Railway Station I am told that there is no demand for such a service. Unsurprising when it doesn't exist. Rural people don't put pen to paper on such things; they put up with them.

  1.4  An integrated system would mean that every hamlet—with maybe a short taxi ride—should be within reach of a bus which would link its citizens with the national network.

  2.  Such a national system requires subsidising.

  2.1  The first crushing blow to the old sixties network was the Beeching slaughter of branch lines.

  2.2  The second, mortal blow was the privatisation of buses. Unscrupulous "entrepreneurs" ran free services on profitable routes, bankrupting decent employers who kept to trade union standards, and creamed these routes off, charging fees at whatever rates they chose. The other routes, vital to country people but unprofitable, simply died.

  2.3  Norfolk has been hit worse by this process than the rest of Britain, and will not achieve access to an integrated network until a sufficient subsidy, whether local or national, exists to pay for—at a minimum—hourly services from every village to a hub market town with a decent bus station, from which services run to the nearest railway station, coach station or airport.

  2.4  The effect of such an improvement upon rural employment and morale, through access to, for example, medical facilities, theatres, cinemas, farmers' markets and sports centres would not only be incalculable but would result in a concomitant reduction in car use and probably more employed taxpayers.

  3.  I am now a healthy 85, and would like to ask the Committee if it is remotely possible that before I die I might have access to a transport system even equal to the rather inefficient one that I enjoyed in the 1960s.

1 May 2002

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