Wednesday 22 January 2014

No go in No Yo? / Bradford bargain?

Last night, North Yorkshire County Council voted for huge cuts in the subsidies it pays out for uneconomic bus routes. BBC News says this will save the council £2million. It comes however at the expense of isolated communities in Britain's biggest county. One wonders how many of the bus routes to be cut might become economic to run if pensioners paid towards the cost of transporting them around. It looks like large parts of North Yorkshire are about to become a no-go zone for those of us without a car.

Staying in Yorkshire, new tickets have been launched by Arriva in Bradford, reports the Telegraph & Argus. The new local tickets bring the cost of local travel in Bradford down to £4 a day and £14 a week. Previously, the cheapest Arriva-only tickets covering the area were the West Yorkshire DaySaver at £4.50 or the weekly ticket at £17.50. As a comparison, First, who have a more comprehensive route network in Bradford charge £3.90 for a FirstDay Bradford and £14 for a FirstWeek Bradford. Looks like Arriva have realised that they were charging well over the odds for local travel there.


  1. I don't think you realise how the concessionary bus pass scheme is funded?

    Operators are reimbursed on the basis that they are neither better nor worse off than if no bus pass scheme existed. It is assumed that people make more journeys because it is free and that is why they only get a fraction (increasingly 50% or less) of the full (often average) fare for that journey/service. So if for instance the full single fare is £3.00 they will usually get less than £1.50.

    If you get rid of the passes people will naturally make fewer journeys and there won't be more revenue than there is now!!!!

    Whilst many are prepared to pay a flat fare or contribution I wouldn't trust politicians to pass it on to keep services going. It would just result in even less money being given to local authorities and thereby operators.

  2. Clive C - being a bit naïve here, whilst the legislation says operators should be 'no better & not worse off' that is only words and is increasingly looking like a bad joke - the government ran a review of the standard calculation and when it didn't give enough of a reduction to the rates they fiddled the assumptions it was based on to force down the rate, hardly indicates the claims of 'No better, no worse' were ever anything better than window dressing. Based on growth being seen & on the standard elasticity calculations that are used by the industry (and seen to be largely accurate in this area) operators should be receiving a reimbursement rate of 65-75%. In reality, operators are lucky to see 50% - certainly my employers see getting around 50% now as being lucky - I know of many areas that are paying rates in the low 30's% and I have heard of one operator in the midlands receiving less than 25% reimbursement. To put it into context Scotland & Wales, who both introduced centrally run & funded schemes before England's devolved mess, were paying reimbursement rates around 70% and though they have cut them as they struggled to fund the scheme both are still well above 50% at the last report (though the latest proposals by Wales appear to be driving the rate down far enough to threaten large swathes of their network when added to the BSOG cuts also coming in). Based on these figures it looks less like 'no better, no worse off' and more like the industry and it's fare paying passengers are subsidising a government policy it can't afford to run but is too scared to end. It is possible to run a vehicle like an Optare Solo full on a cross-country route and if too large a proportion of passengers are on free passes actually lose money on it - how is that ever 'no better no worse'.

    There is a debate about how much of the travel on free passes is discretionary, and would thus disappear without free passes, how much would have been gained anyway through service improvements and the increased cost of running a car & how much is travel that has to happen anyway to get to shops, doctors, families etc. There is a growing sentiment that the continual fall in reimbursement rates (and it is in my experience a universal fall each time it is reviewed - this scheme has been running for almost a decade and the eligible age is climbing reducing the pool of eligible cardholders, how can it be claimed that it is still increasing the rate of passenger generation) has meant that the argument that all the passengers would disappear and operators would be worse off no longer has a leg to stand on - and with all the threats of political interference from all those groups who count it as a subsidy to private operators it is a threat to the long term stability of their operations merely by its existence.

  3. There is a sensible solution. Currently most passengers do not pay a fare & that is the problem. I would suggest the following

    Concessionary Passes

    An annual charge based on the Pensioners tax status

    Non Taxpayer No Charge
    20% tax payer £40 a year
    40% tax Payer £80 a year
    45% taxpayer £90 a year

    School Free Transport

    Current Primary Schools over 2 Miles Free Travel
    Secondary Schools over 3 Miles Free Travel

    Revised They will pay the fare for the first two or 3 miles with the local council covering the excess fare. This will be treated as a taxable benefit

    The above will raise a lot of money to invest in maintaining and improving bus services

  4. Thanks dwarfer1979 that's very helpful and I totally agree.

    I was just trying to give a simple answer to the initial comment.

    We are also having a problem with a scholars concessionary scheme where the reimbursement rate has similarly been kept low (less than previous season ticket rates) and reductions in cost are being sought. In some cases this would mean relatively full buses/journeys running at a loss. (One or other of anonymous probably won't understand why! Its a peak bus that we wouldn't otherwise be running). This will come to a head in the next few weeks..

    There are still too many people, particularly politicians who don't realise or accept that we are entitled to such reimbursements - it is not a free gift.

    I don't disagree to some kind of charge being introduced but from past experience no allowance will be made by the Government for any administration costs at any level. They are also more likely to regard any charges made as a reduction in the overall cost of the scheme and no money will find its way through to fund bus services.

    The same is likely to happen at County or Unitary level unless it can be ring fenced which in the current climate seems unlikely.

  5. We've done ourselves no favours sometimes by agreeing to run school buses commercially.

    In my County we took on a bunch of school runs commercially for two main reasons - we didn't want to lose the drivers or strand the kids with no transport to school, and we reckoned there was a small crust to be made with appropriate fares increases (County had been underpricing the fares for political reasons for decades, which is why they'd been run at a loss).

    The authorities are now into full "well you do it commercially now so you need less reimbursement from the education pot" mode. We had to let three contracts go, as even with a stonking 20% fares increase for two years running, the sums just didn't add up. The grief we've had from schools, parents AND County has been unbelievable! It's the "bad bad bus company" syndrome all over.

    I do wish (at the risk of "anonymous" jumping in again) that people would understand that we are a business; we need to make a profit just like any other business and if we don't then the company will fail and there'll be no service at all! Doyle's in Derbyshire is the latest casuality, and there will be more, as cuts in concessionary reimbursement, cuts in education reimbursement, cuts in BSOG and lord knows what else is round the corner comes along.

    The most telling illustration of the condition of the industry is from Ben Colson. I was lucky enough to meet him in the late 1980's on a training course, and he taught me some great lessons about service planning that I've never forgotten and still use today. He was asked, on his retirement, if he'd do it all again, and he said "no". There is too much interference from local and central government, who want to meddle and then walk away when it all goes wrong. Young bus managers don't want the hassle and 24/7 commitment; they prefer the structure of a big bus company.

    I was disappointed to hear those comments, but I fully sympathise - and I wish him a long retirement - he's certainly earned it!

  6. Changes to operator licence financial standing limits from January the 1st may send some operators out of business


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