Wednesday 11 December 2013

Council cuts hurt, says CBT

The Campaign for Better Transport has been in the news today after publishing a report (read it here) on the effect of cuts in council budgets for supporting bus services. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the general gist of it is that cuts to buses harm local economies as people are prevented from travelling between certain places to shop, work or play.

Will councils listen though? And even if they do, can they find the budgets to support vital links?

In some cases where routes are withdrawn, operators might decide to try running commercially in order to save some of the links, but this is not going to be viable everywhere. Having said that, fewer people, especially younger people, are learning to drive, so the long term trend is for there to be more potential bus passengers, providing they can be persuaded to try the bus out. This should translate into more commercial bus routes, at least where operators are doing their jobs properly and spotting and exploiting those opportunities.

One such opportunity is Stagecoach Manchester's current half-price weekly Megarider sale. It's clever because you only get the discount if you buy online and have the ticket delivered to you in the form of a Stagecoach Smart card. Once the discounted ticket has expired, you'd throw away a paper ticket, but the smartcard will remain in many people's wallets acting as an ad for Stagecoach and bus travel in general, just waiting to be topped up again online should the user choose to use the bus again.

So it's not all bad news. Nevertheless, the CBT report says that entire local bus networks are under threat. Which raises the question: What should be done for communities that are cut off from public transport? Should there be some kind of nationwide minimum-provision and how could it work?

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