Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from J Nevell (BUS 58)

1.  As a frequent user of bus services for commuting, shopping and leisure journeys, I am writing to express my concern about the likely effects of current government policies towards the bus industry, following the suggestion to respond on the Passenger Focus website (14 January 2011). Neither my wife nor I drive, so we depend on public transport, mostly travelling by bus to reach areas that are not served by rail. On holidays we use rural services to travel around scenic areas such as the Derbyshire Peak District, The Lake District, North Yorkshire and Cornwall. Our quality of life would be adversely affected by major service reductions in these areas. However the economics of bus operations are being undermined by government policies, putting the future of many routes at risk.

2.  In recent years new regulations, such as vehicle emissions standards, have increased bus fuel consumption rates, which have compounded the effects of rising fuel prices on industry costs. The recently announced reduction in fuel duty rebate will further increase fuel costs, turning some marginal commercial routes into loss makers. The scope for relaxing some regulations (such as low floors, Disability Discrimination Act measures and emissions standards) for vehicles used on marginal routes, particularly in rural areas, should be investigated. For the majority of passengers a service with lower specification vehicles is better than no service at all.

3.  The free travel for pensioners scheme also appears to be adversely affecting bus company finances. Although it is claimed that the reimbursement system covers the costs involved, some operators appear to be reducing service frequencies on routes that are used by mostly by pensioners. Fares for non-concessionary passengers also appear to be relatively high in some areas with large pensioner populations. This may be an attempt to recoup losses made on concessionary travel - ie other passengers are subsidising those with free passes. It seems unfair that fare-paying passengers suffer from reduced services and higher fares as a result of this scheme. The financial impacts of the scheme need to be made clearer. If its costs are unaffordable to the government, without affecting service viability or other passengers, then its scale and scope should be reduced.

4.  I hope these views can be considered in the inquiry into the funding of bus services.

February 2011

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