Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from D Cooper-Smith (BUS 01)

There has been discontent in Milton Keynes with bus service for many years, under various operators. I don't think this is their fault—rather, due to MK's unusual geography and a regulatory/subsidy system that produces perverse incentives.

The role of government has been to give fixed-contract subsidy for particular services. This:

—  (i)  stifles enterprise/innovation by the operator;

—  (ii)  makes the operator rely on fixed subsidy income, minimizing incentive to attract custom; and

—  (iii)  is unresponsive to changing needs and involves government officers in decision-making, often remote from customers and taxpayers.

Some possible solutions:

—  (a)  A "2 tier" service with a few primary/trunk routes using full size buses largely on grid roads, supplemented by secondary routes using smaller vehicles (to maintain decent frequencies) through the estates—these may need higher fares than primary routes due to higher costs.

—  (b)  Some smaller vehicles could provide extra bus service during peaks and be utilized for cab-hire in off-peaks.

—  (c)  Subsidies to be performance-related (eg related to amount of custom attracted) rather than fixed amount/fixed contract.

—  (d)  Replace stage fares with a simple (3?) zonal system.

November 2010

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