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

Memorandum by Philip Longdon Esq (Bus 54)


  I write in response to the HoC Transport Sub-Committee Inquiry into the Bus Industry. I do so from the point of view of a bus user. However, it is only fair to point out that I do work in Public Transport, though not for a bus operating company. My comments come from massive experience of bus usage, with detailed operational and, as a council taxpayer, financial knowledge of Public Transport operation in Greater Manchester.

  I have to say at the outset that this inquiry seems to be buck-passing of the worst kind, and somewhat hypocritical; for instance, is there to be an investigation into the financing of the Rail industry, bearing in mind that the vast majority of tax-payers outside the South-East rarely, if ever, use trains. Indeed, it seems to be yet another "smokescreen" for Government to look like its doing something about Transport problems in the UK, whilst it continues to ignore the most fundamental reasons why Britain's traffic congestion problems are so bad and are going to get a whole lot worse. The problem is quite simple: Less than 70 per cent of Adults in Britain have full access to private transport, but the Government, the motoring lobby and the Media are all pretending we have 100 per cent access to private transport (at least, outside London). You are doing nothing to stop over 10 million (physically able) Adults from feeling forced to acquire a car. Once they have done that, it is economic stupidity to use public transport that costs considerably more than the variable costs of a car (ie petrol) to use. See Case Study.

  I understand that the CTSC is looking at five issues:


  No doubt the investigation (and of course, media coverage) will concentrate on the headline subsidies paid to the bus industry, failing to point out that:

    (a)  The vast majority of the subsidy comes from LOCAL Government.

    (b)  The majority of the subsidy (in PTA areas, at least) goes on Concessionary fares, NOT on socially necessary services.

    (c)  The subsidy paid for socially-necessary services is inflated because of the outlawing of cross-subsidy, and the total failure to enforce criminal law.

    (d)  Half of the "socially necessary" services budget goes on school buses. This is inflated because of the change in school hours in recent years making provision of buses and drivers much less economic, and due to the high cost of vandalism and misbehaviour by school children.

    (e)  The bus industry pays hundreds of millions of pounds in tax to Central Government every year—a figure passed onto the passenger of course.

    (f)  In many parts of the country, the bus industry and (more importantly), their tax-paying customers get very little back for those hundreds of millions of pounds. I refer mainly to the absence of any form of Bus Priority on the vast majority of routes; the naivety of the Traffic Commissioners who think that buses can be run inside a "six minute" envelope of punctuality under such circumstances; and (again) the lack of enforcement of the Law—whether it be missile attacks on bus passengers or constant parking on bus stops (including city centre termini).

    (g)  FDR is not a subsidy. If I pay you £100, and you give me £75 back next year, you have gained £25 (plus the interest you can generate from investing the £100).

    (h)  No other public transport industry pays fuel tax.

    (i)  Massive public subsidy is spent in other ways in this country (mostly in the South-East), not least on Rail services, which are often in direct competition with commercial bus services on a local basis, and on London weighting (a whole separate debate—if it wasn't for the fact that the North-South Divide was a taboo subject in this country). Even now, the Government are trying to get northerners to subsidise the exile of their own "key" workers to London and the Home Counties. This policy, of course, has a direct negative effect on bus service reliability, as more and more drivers walk off the job.

  Rural and Urban bus challenges are also mentioned. Experience locally is fairly limited, especially as Urban Bus Challenge is a new phenomenon. Where RBC has been implemented, the results have been mixed. Some, doubtless, form a very useful service for a limited number of people, but others seem to do little more than abstract patronage from parallel commercial routes.


  As the Committee will be aware, Greater Manchester has a Bus Quality Partnership (QP). This has been of limited use insofar as relationships between most Operators (those that are in the QP) has improved—both amongst themselves, and with GMPTE. The main tangible success is the "System One" range of tickets giving passengers reasonable value transport, irrelevant of the colour of the bus. Off-peak Rail is also included. Beyond that, it has largely been a failure. A number of bus operators are not signed up, and a minority of these continue to exemplify the worst of bus deregulation: they are in existence purely to deny revenue to one or other of the large operators—by copying their most frequent routes and running only during Schools and (Mon-Sat) Shopping Hours;—they ignore the "slot" system designed to alleviate congestion in bus stations; and they are often very late in providing service Registrations to GMPTE for publicity purposes. Indeed, they are not above inventing imaginative reasons for changing/withdrawing services at very short notice, or simply withdrawing services overnight (as has happened recently in my local area).

  Manchester Airport's involvement has also had limited success, but the ensuing improvements are confined to specific areas close to the Airport, which because the Trafford Centre is close by, and the general economy is much healthier in the south and south-west of the county, has only served to polarise the "winners and losers" of Government policy (central and local).

  Of the other signatories, AGMA and the Highways Agency pay little more than lip service to the QP. The most obvious example with AGMA (as representatives of the local Councils) is the total absence of law enforcement concerning obstruction of bus stops. Some councils have also installed poorly designed "traffic calming" measures which have resulted in a very rough ride for bus drivers and passengers alike—several times a day and irrelevant of how slow and carefully the bus is driven. These are usually on residential estates—where bus operators are looking to reduce/withdraw services anyway—and seem to be located near Schools. The idea of traffic calming measures improving safety for school children is fundamentally flawed, because at the start and finish of the school day, the roads around schools are so clogged up with parked cars that it is impossible to drive fast anyway. Further, I have noticed a general increase in reckless driving on other, nearby stretches of road since these traffic calming measures were introduced, as motorists strive to make up (perceived) lost time.

  Local Councils (along with the Highways Agency) regularly give bus operators both very late and inaccurate warnings about major roadworks and diversions.

  I understand that GMP pulled out of signing up to the QP at a late stage. This was a sensible move given the low priority they (and indeed, Politicians, Educationalists etc) give to missile attacks on bus passengers and drivers. In fairness to them, GMP are grossly under funded, have 30 per cent less officers per head of population than the Met, and now it seems the British Transport Police are to receive £1.5 million to help police London's bus services. As I assume you are aware, BTP have no role whatsoever in protecting bus users outside London—but then again, who does?

  It is my firm belief that Quality Contracts are the only way forward to reverse the growing chasm between haves and have-nots in areas like Greater Manchester. The trend (backed by the 1985 and 2000 Transport Acts) is for certain areas to lose off-peak services as part of simplified networks. The worst of this is that it is often large residential areas with lower car ownership that are suffering.


  As one senior GMP Officer said (before the days of QPs); "We don't have much of a problem enforcing bus priorities in Greater Manchester—then again, we don't have many to enforce!" The situation has improved a little bit, with Quality Corridors in parts of the county. However, these have come into use too slowly and, as an indication that they are largely financed by Operators themselves, have so far been confined to areas where First Manchester are the major operator, because First are investing millions of pounds into the Corridors.

  There are existing, and planned, corridors in other parts of the county—but these are not necessarily on the most suitable routes. The main existing one is the Wilmslow Road corridor. I often think of Wilmslow Road as "mini-London"; It is the University corridor, full of students, from all over the world, and it is the regional base of the BBC. Many of these students and media people (particularly from southern England) are very good at telling Mancunians what to do and what to think, whether the subject is the Middle East or Transport. In the latter case, they do it from a southern, middle-class, car-owning viewpoint. This is, in a way, understandable, as Wilmslow Road has more off-peak and all night bus services than the rest of Greater Manchester combined, and the fares are considerably cheaper, too. It also has bus lanes, but these are almost totally blocked by parked cars in certain stretches. The next Quality Corridor is the A6. This is similar in a way; it links Manchester with Stockport and middle-class Hazel Grove. This route has proved controversial because the corridor is used by vociferous motorists (many living outside Greater Manchester) and (more understandably) the route has many retail businesses with frontage on the A6. Other corridors have slipped down the pecking order—presumably for political reasons, despite having a stronger practical case.

  Apart from the vastly reduced cost and (theoretically) shorter lead-in times, the main advantage of Bus Lanes over rail lines is their flexibility allowing them to bring benefits to a much larger catchment area—that and the fact that bus fares for regular commuters are considerably lower than rail fares. I would think Bus Lanes or full QBC's should have the following characteristics:

    —  Long unbroken stretches of wide roads, to maximise the advantage of the exclusive lane, whilst minimising disadvantages to other road users.

    —  High number of different bus routes feeding into the bus lane to bring reduced running times to the maximum number of users. If these services are less frequent individually, or the areas served are less well-off, so much the better from a social exclusion point of view.

    —  Bus lanes/QBCs should operate at the very least from 0700hrs to 1900hrs, in both directions, and preferably for the full period of service operation. The idea that traffic congestion is limited to traditional peak hours is outdated, and the current situation of Peak bus lanes in Manchester operating from 1600hrs is ludicrous. Much congestion is caused by schools traffic, and schools finish for the day as early as 1430hrs.

  Although much attention has been paid to Quality Corridors, there is another, even more efficient measure that I believe should be progressed much more quickly; Selected Vehicle Detection (SVD). There are many reasons why the Traffic Commissioner's demands for 95 per cent of buses to run within a "6 minute envelope" are totally unrealistic (and that's a subject I shall return to). One of the major reasons is traffic lights. Indeed, I have missed many a connection due to a string of red lights as buses approach connection points—and I'm talking connecting services that each run every 30 or 60 minutes.

  Most traffic lights have cycles of at least 120 seconds (occasionally more), and if a bus just reaches traffic lights as they turn red, it will lose most of that two minutes. If it then pulls up at a lay-by bus stop just past the lights, it will lose another two minutes, as Highway Code 79 is no longer observed. This can be multiplied along the route as most urban corridors have traffic light junctions every few hundred metres. Further, buses are more likely to be stopped at traffic lights, as many sets of lights are controlled by sensors detecting gaps in the traffic. These gaps are often created because buses have slower acceleration than cars, and are more likely to observe 30 mph speed limits. Even where lights are on a strict time cycle, there seem to be many which require a vehicle setting off on green at one set to travel a few mph above the limit to avoid approaching the next set as they change to amber or red.

  A notorious example in Greater Manchester is a route that forms a half circle round the east side of the city. This route encounters 27 sets of traffic lights, most of which have minimal green time because the route crosses several major corridors. It was calculated that the difference between hitting every set of lights on green (very unlikely) and hitting every set on red (more likely) is 81 minutes on a round trip—slightly outside the six-minute envelope! Consequently, SVD would not only speed up bus journeys, but make them more predictable, too. Oh! and you can't park on a Select Vehicle Detector. I respectfully suggest that the Traffic Commissioners should only be allowed to punish Operators for running more than five minutes late on sections of route where successful Bus Priorities have been installed.


  Predictably, this debate is split into black and white; Many Bus Operators will say there is too much, whilst, some politicians will say there is too little. I would tend to agree with the latter, given that deregulation has been a total disaster for the vast majority of tax-paying non-motorists outside London. However, the main problem is we have the wrong regulations. It is absolutely ludicrous that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can come along and start a bus service having passed basic safety criteria, yet the law says that every single registered journey must be regarded as a profit centre, and that his/her service registration should include totally arbitrary and often unpredictable timing points at every other lamp post. The situation is then exacerbated by less than fair enforcement of the regulations. For instance, whilst one major operator in this area is building in this arbitrary timing points to satisfy the traffic commissioner's demand for timing points less than 10 minutes apart, other smaller operators are persistently having registrations with 20 and 25 minute gaps accepted.

  Indeed, apart from the billions of tax-payers money squandered on luxuries for London (Millennium Dome, Millennium Bridge, "National" Football Stadium, London Underground, Chunnel etc) the main reason why I feel the Government is hypocritical in investigating the bus industry is because the bus industry is working under the Laws Parliament created—or more to the point, the Tories created in 1985 and the Labour Government endorsed two years ago. Perhaps worst off all, is MP's own apparent Ignorance of that Legislation, particularly the outlawing of cross subsidy. You cannot criticise bus operators for not running evening and Sunday services, when you have endorsed a law that says that they cannot use profits from peak hour journeys to cross-subsidise those evening and Sunday services *even on the same route*—and that's before we get into arguments about evening services being unprofitable because of an epidemic of criminal attacks, and cheap fares after 1830hrs on subsidised rail lines.

  If nothing else, the law should be changed so that a profit centre is, at the very least, a full route.

  I suppose the idea of Quality Indicators/Targets is a form of Regulation. They would also be welcome . . . if they came with an increased chance of them being achieved. Like the 10 per cent increase in patronage by 2010 aspiration, they should not be used as a "blanket" target, with improvements in some areas being off-set with deterioration elsewhere. Clearly, patronage will increase in London at a much faster rate, as public transport there is far better than the rest of urban Britain, and there is increased centralisation of the national economy in the bottom right-hand corner of Great Britain.

  The most important indicator is reliability. I have just seen in the trade press the latest figures for London, which show a marked improvement in a short space of time, with 2.6 per cent of lost mileage deemed to be within bus operators' control. Strangely, this includes lost mileage through traffic congestion. How on earth can that be within the bus operators' control? I don't have recent specific figures for Greater Manchester, but from my knowledge of the local industry, I would think the quoted figure of 0.6 per cent in London compares very favourably with this county. The other figures quoted make for very interesting reading: 1.55 per cent lost through vehicle breakdown/failure and just 0.5 per cent through staff shortage. Whilst the former figure suggests London buses are very badly maintained, the latter figure is somewhat disconcerting, especially as I read it on the day that the Chancellor announces yet more public money to further fuel the over-heating London economy, by enticing "key" workers to the already over-crowded Capital. Again, I don't have specific figures to hand, only past figures and anecdotal evidence and personal experience to suggest lost mileage is increasing overall in Greater Manchester. However, I am sure that the lost mileage through staff shortage here comes to a lot more than 0.5 per cent of total registered mileage.

  Irrelevant of the total figure, the indicators should take account of the inconvenience to the travelling public. With staff failures in particular, it is often possible to redeploy drivers from frequent routes to less frequent routes and/or to duties including last journeys of the day. Indeed, this was standard practice with the old GMT, and even GM Buses. However, the trend is for the opposite to now happen. Certainly, where Traffic Commissioners have recently gained more flexibility in punishing Operators for unreliability, it is hoped that they take into account the inconvenience caused as well as just the number or percentage of journeys lost. Failure of an hourly journey, or of the last journey of the day, should be taken far more seriously than the failure of a mid-morning journey on a route with a 10-minute headway.


  Social exclusion means different things to different people, and a number of factors are doubtless used to define it. These presumably include physical limitations, but should also include financial limitations, as well as employment opportunities etc.

  I take my own area (Haughton Green), on the Tameside/Stockport border as a case study (enclosed). Briefly, what this emphasises is not so much a tendency towards further reducing off-peak services in general, but more towards poorer service levels in certain areas. In many cases, this retrenchment does not make obvious commercial sense, and ironically means the bus industry is adopting the in-built discrimination of the fixed-track rail industry. Nevertheless, the point remains that existing Transport and Competition legislation encourages these moves, through its emphasis on single journey profit centres, instead of route-wide, or even network profit centres.

  In conclusion, I don't think that the House of Commons in endorsing the regionally discriminating 1985 Transport Act has the moral right to inquire into the bus industry. In fact, it should be the tax paying, non-motorists of this country (OUTSIDE LONDON) who should summon you to ask why we are being discriminated against geographically and modally. 16 years on, there is still an undercurrent of anger caused by the fact that the 1985 Act discriminated between Londoners and non-Londoners. Everyone I meet with even the slightest interest in transport issues, including confirmed motorists, ask the same question; why wasn't London deregulated?

July 2002



  Whilst I can hardly claim Haughton Green is amongst the most deprived or socially excluded areas in Britain, it is well above average, with over 2,000 non-car households and a downward trend in job opportunities and pattern of bus services contrasting with a dramatic increase in crime. It also has a low profile politically, being positioned between two more notorious, but demographically smaller "overspill" council estates (Hattersley and Brinnington). Coincidentally, the ward population total at the 1991 Census was 11,250—exactly the same as Shepperton quoted in a study by the NFBU. A more general study on the subject of social exclusion (which incidentally pointed out the total futility of rail services in poor areas) in the mid-1990s listed Haughton Green as 4th in a table of Tameside's 19 wards, with 2,233 (47.4 per cent) car-less households. Tameside itself is below "mid-table" in economic terms, having suffered badly from the decline in manufacturing and lack of investment in the second half of the 20th century. What investment has come Tameside's way since that Social Exclusion study has bypassed (literally, in one case) Denton and Haughton Green, despite the fact that in population terms, Denton is Tameside's second largest town.

  Haughton Green has been in existence for at least 250 years and had its first tram service at the start of the last century. This service survives almost unchanged (route-wise) as today's bus number 347 to Denton itself and onto the borough seat of Ashton-under-Lyne. The "village" end of the ward is 1.8 miles from Denton centre and 4.3 miles from Ashton. The Manchester "overspill" council estate, built in the mid 1960s is slightly closer to Denton. The other commercial bus services are 204 (Manchester-Denton-Haughton Green-Hyde) and 322 (to Stockport). Hyde is 1.5 miles away, Manchester just over 7 miles and Stockport just 5 miles.

  To all intents and purposes, Haughton Green is nowhere near the rail network. The 204 route has only been in existence for 27 years, but before that rush-hour links to Manchester were actually considerably better, whilst Hyde was served by a separate irregular service. The 322 route was actually introduced on deregulation day (at the direct cost of the Stockport-Denton service), but had actually been conceived some three years earlier, and indeed was all set to start in January 1986, but a speeding up of preparations for deregulation delayed it by nine months. This service runs hourly, Mon-Sat daytimes only, but is the only bus service in Haughton Green to have a subsidised variation, with a messy evening and Sunday route (numbered 324) also covering Denton centre. Arriva currently run the evening tender on this route, with Stagecoach running all the regular commercial services (with daytime competition on 347) and the Sunday 324.

  From the users point of view, it would be much better if the 324 contracts had been awarded in reverse. Because Arriva run the evening service there is a fare penalty of up to £5.70 a week for anyone working evenings in or beyond Stockport. On the other hand, Arriva, in common with First and many other operators in Gtr. Manchester have responded to GMPTA's plea to bring the county more in line with the rest of Britain by introducing Sunday levels of service on Bank Holidays. Unfortunately, Stagecoach have not, and they run a very basic Bank Holiday service. This is where the trend is highlighted: Haughton Green has more buses per hour off-peak on a normal Monday than on the whole of a Bank Holiday. In fact, the only service to run on Bank Holidays is the 347, and this finishes around 1830hrs. In other words, you have an area with over 2,000 non-car households and a century long history of public transport usage, 1.5 miles away from the nearest public transport for 13+ evenings a year. As well as losing out on the recent improvement in Bank Holiday services, Haughton Green has missed out on similar improvements to night services, has lost its Christmas and New Year's Eve evening services, and hasn't benefited from Commonwealth Games enhancements (although other nearby areas have). To put this into context on a commercial basis:

    (a)  Based on 1988/89 figures (when I worked for the now defunct GM Buses), the 347 service was the most profitable service in what is now the Stagecoach Manchester network of well over 100 routes.

    (b)  Since 1985, despite (or is it because of) intermittent direct competition, the single fare from Haughton Green to Denton has increased nearly 300 per cent—albeit the expansion of day tickets and a slower increase in prices of period tickets means that fewer people pay single fares. This means a round trip to the nearest centre with full amenities costs £1.80 by bus, about four times the cost of unleaded petrol. Indeed, the occasional travellers who still pay single fares often include the Unemployed—of which there are many not even entitled to claim benefits. In a similar period, bus drivers wages have gone up little more than 30 per cent—and obviously their conditions have worsened with the increase in assaults, robberies and missile attacks, etc. Also, due to an historical quirk the single fare to Hyde is actually more expensive!

    (c)  All the enhancements "missed out", outlined above, would be based on service 204, and in many cases would be done at the "expense" of service 201 journeys that run directly up the main A57 between Denton and Hyde. This stretch of the A57 is sparsely populated compared to Haughton Green, and none of it would be more than 0.6 miles walk from the 204 route or other services. Other, slightly more imaginative, alternatives could also be found (eg combining 201 and 204).

  There is one other aspect of the current trend, which had escaped this area until recently, due to a hangover of the "public service ethic" and better than average management/staff relations at (at least) one of Stagecoach's depots. Where bus journeys were bound to fail due to staff shortage and/or severe traffic congestion (both common occurrences) we used to benefit by "front line" staff at Stagecoach making every attempt to ensure the less frequent services were the more reliable. However, there have been numerous examples recently suggesting this may no longer be the case, and Stagecoach seem to be following the example of First and other companies in giving priority to the corridor stretches of frequent services over the less frequent, residential stretches.

  The Government has a self-imposed target of increasing bus usage by 10 per cent in 10 years. Typically, for a Government which has one law for London and another for the rest of the UK, and has legislation that puts every single journey as a cost centre, they wanted this as a blanket figure, knowing full well major gains in London and isolated areas with pro-public transport councils eg Brighton, Edinburgh etc, would have to cover up losses elsewhere, particularly areas with a declining economy such as the urban North West. In reality, there is no chance under the 2000 Act that patronage in Greater Manchester will increase at all. There may be stability in (relative) boom areas such as Trafford, but there will be losses in declining areas such as Tameside.

  Perhaps the biggest failure and disappointment of recent years in this area, has been the completion of the M60 motorway. Hailed as a saviour both in terms of reduced traffic congestion and increased jobs—the opposite seems to be true. The motorway is congested every rush hour, particularly between Denton and Stockport, and the slightest accident as far away as Cheadle or even Worsley brings gridlock, with increased traffic on other roads such as the A57 Hyde Road. Since the opening of the motorway, my average bus journey time to work, in central Manchester has increased between five to seven minutes, mainly due to congestion between the Denton "Island" and Reddish Bridge, and indeed, getting out of Haughton Green itself. The latter phenomenon is believed to be due to rat-runners from Hyde and Longdendale trying to avoid the congested M60 and M67, combined, of course, with the School Run. Although, I have not had cause to travel the route myself, I'm told that rush-hour traffic has also increased on the A6017 between Ashton and Audenshaw. This local anecdotal evidence is backed by a recent national survey stating that this stretch of road attracts more complaints about traffic noise than almost any other in Great Britain.

  The completion of the M60 was also followed by a number of factory closure announcements in the Denton, Audenshaw and Guide Bridge areas. Although, there is, belatedly, talk of investment in Retail projects in Denton, it is feared that jobs will go to car-bound commuters from outside the area, thus increasing traffic congestion even more. Further, because the two larger planned developments will not be either in Denton town centre, or even on the A57 corridor, commercial bus operators will not be interested in serving them, thus creating yet more of a gap between retail choices and price savings for motorists compared to non-motorists.

  Further afield, transport links remain poor: Service 347 continues to serve the borough seat and main shopping areas of Denton and Ashton, with a healthy catchment on other parts of the route, not just Haughton Green. Evening loadings remain remarkably healthy on this route, albeit the last bus no longer carries a full load home from the pub, and unfortunately, a high proportion of weekday evening passengers are gangs of kids. Service 204 is undermined, not only by traffic congestion, but also by its city terminus on the periphery of Manchester—until 1995 it ran all the way through the city centre to Victoria Rail Station. Because the economy of Greater Manchester is moving more and more to the south; South Manchester, Stockport and Trafford, service 322 should be the route with the most potential to improve job prospects for residents in the area. Unfortunately, it only runs hourly, gets caught up in traffic congestion approaching Stockport, and the connections for services to Manchester Airport (bus), Birmingham and Sheffield (train) could hardly be worse. In addition, the service is run by a single-decker, and over-loading is not unknown in the evening peak, such that there has been occasion when people have had to wait an hour for the bus to come round again. A similar situation with less serious consequences, as the bus runs every 15-30 minutes, has happened with service 204 out of Manchester. This too, is a problem partially created by existing legislation, which has outlawed loading restrictions. In both cases, Haughton Green bound passengers are fighting for capacity with short riders who have far more choice of buses.

  With major employment centres becoming more and more isolated, it is success stories like the Trafford Centre and Manchester Airport that need to be considered in this context. Both are 24-hour operations, but even an 8 am start would prove particularly unattractive by public transport. To reach the Trafford Centre (about 14 miles away) by 8 am on a weekday would require catching the first bus of the day at 6 am (though Saturday is slightly easier), but it could not be reached until after 9 am on a Sunday. Manchester Airport is about 12 miles away by road (but less than eight miles by air). In this case a 6.30 am start would be needed for a long and expensive journey by bus to Manchester and then train back out to the Airport—although a much quicker and cheaper possibility through Stockport exists "on paper" until 7 September. On a Sunday, it would again be after 9 am, and on Bank Holidays about 10 am. In the case of the Airport, this also means public transport is ruled out as an Airline passenger in many cases, raising the perverse scenario that it can cost a Haughton Green resident living under the Approach flight path more in taxi fares to reach the Airport, than it costs rich Southerners in air fare to fly from Stansted or Luton to Europe! Almost as perverse, is the fact that if I lived in Buxton (28 road-miles from the Airport), a Derbyshire town with high car-ownership and little political or economic dependence on Greater Manchester, I could reach the Airport well before 6 am by bus, on 362 days a year.

  On the surface, this looks like evidence to illustrate that the bus industry is failing some of its customers, and is widening the social exclusion gap. However, the whole point is that they are doing so by following the legislation that you, the House of Commons, passed in 1985 and endorsed in 2000. This Legislation says that they cannot cross-subsidise and must act in a purely business like manner by maximising profits on each and every registered journey. Indeed, the law says they cannot make a sustained operating loss on any individual journey, no matter how beneficial that journey might be to individual taxpayers.

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