Author Topic: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?  (Read 8774 times)

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Offline Martin Wicks

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A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« on: November 02, 2012, 05:49:59 PM »
Here's a letter to the Adver.Not yet published.

A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?

In Keith Williams comments to the Advertiser we can catch a glimpse of the future and it doesn't look very pretty. He told bus users “to expect to walk further to catch a bus in future”. Unfortunately you cannot “protect services” as Keith says he wants to do by reducing the quality of them. If you are fit and active then a short walk will not be a problem to you. However, if you are aged, infirmed, or suffering from a chronic illness, then seemingly minor alterations to a bus service can adversely affect the quality of your life.

Take the example of the alteration to the Number 18 bus which goes to Park South. The ending of the short trip from there to the hospital has presented a problem to elderly people who travel to GWH. If they can't manage the walk to Queens Drive, they have to catch a Number 30 from Cavendish Square (only an hourly service) and either get one back, or else catch a number 16 to the New College and walk to the Number 17 bus stop to pick up a bus home. Since the Number 30 is only hourly they may have a long wait before and/or after their appointment.

If as Keith says we can expect more buses travelling down “the main roads” we face potentially damaging social consequences for elderly, ill and disabled people. Keith gave the example of Penhill and Parks having “several buses covering the same route”. He called this “inefficient”. Actually, this is accurate only insofar as the 17 and 18 both end up in Parks, but they go there via different routes, and go to different parts of the estate. The only part of the route they share is Whitbourne Avenue.

Is the fact that both of these estates, which have high levels of poverty and more than 35% of the population who don't own cars, an irrelevance? Or is it a consideration in determining what service is provided? If you ran a bus which just went to Cavendish Square it would make it impossible for elderly and frail people to use the service. For instance, I can think of a woman of 89 years, who, by the standards of younger and fitter people has a short walk to visit her doctor. But because she has limited mobility she catches the 17 to the surgery and back home. If the bus didn't go round Welcombe Avenue she wouldn't be able to do that.

Apparently a “One Swindon Priority” is “living independently”. A great many older residents are able to live independently, in part because they have a free bus service which enables them to get out and about. If the bus service is “fully commercial” then these social concerns will at best be a secondary consideration or at worst an irrelevance.

It would appear that the Council is thinking that other services such as Dial-a-ride will take up some of the slack as a result of a worsening bus service. Of course, for retired people this is an extra expense for a service that they can currently get for free, and if they are under financial pressure, as many are, then they may not be able to afford to use these services, even if it was possible for Dial-A-Ride to provide them.

The deregulation of bus services in the 1980s was a disaster. The “competition” which was supposed to improve services saw many of them wiped out. The big fish ate the small fish and we ended up with bus monopolies, with a small number of companies dominating the 'market', just like the gas and electricity 'markets'. We are lucky in Swindon to have a municipal bus service which survived deregulation. There aren't many left nationally. It's one thing to talk about the need to deal with the financial pressures which the service is being put under by government policy, but turning our service into “a fully commercial” service will lead to abandoning the social and environmental purpose of a municipal bus service.

Swindon cannot ignore the national policy context in which it has to operate its service, but it can play a part in challenging government policy and defending the social and environmental purpose of our bus service, and campaigning for a saner policy instead of supporting the subordination of more and more services to the profit motive.

Martin Wicks
Chair, Parks & East Walcot Forum
« Last Edit: November 02, 2012, 06:30:21 PM by Martin Wicks »



Offline Muggins

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 06:14:00 PM »
Keith gave the example of Penhill and Parks having “several buses covering the same route”. He called this “inefficient”.

Ah ah, now we know why they keep getting budgets wrong, 'several' = 2, I wouldn't even call that 'a few' it's 2. Ok we might refer to it as a 'couple'.

However added to that the No 17 is a well used bus and pays for itself, and I believe subsidises some of the rest. The No  21 however is 5/6 out and back a day, so it's hardly a sparkling service.

A lack of regular bus service is yet another barrier to work as well as the quality of life for many more.

Not planning in buses to the bigger commerce picture is nuts. 

I have feeling that if one of the members of my family said to a councillor I want to leave the Porshe home on the forecourt, he'd have 4 buses and hour stopping at the end of his street - if buses were capable of getting through of course. 

If they can't keep two (or more) bus routes going in one place then they have to look again at the routes those buses take and stop using mantras as to why they can't change them.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Mart

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 07:10:19 PM »
2 fundamental questions.

What is a bus for?

What are the basic requirements of a bus route?

Answer those two and you might have the rudimentary beginnings of a transport network.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline Mickraker

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2012, 08:12:09 AM »
Quote
Apparently a “One Swindon Priority” is “living independently”. A great many older residents are able to live independently, in part because they have a free bus service which enables them to get out and about. If the bus service is “fully commercial” then these social concerns will at best be a secondary consideration or at worst an irrelevance.

Can Dial-A-Ride help? In Haydon Wick there is a community transport bus, run by the Parish Council. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that as bringing it Councillors attention may lead on to attempts at cutting those services too - of course some will claim it is being done "in all the best possible tastes".... of efficiency   :2funny:
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Offline Martin Wicks

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2012, 12:32:47 PM »
Well, of course Mick, the bus is free to senior citizens, they have to pay for Dial-A-Ride.

Offline Muggins

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2012, 12:51:18 PM »
And Dial a Ride has to be booked in advance at least 24 hours I believe and it should be left for those who relly need it, most of us can walk a SHORT distance and able to get on an odd a bus -even if they don't drop the step!
 
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Offline Des Morgan

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2012, 06:00:25 PM »
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A great many older residents are able to live independently, in part because they have a free bus service which enables them to get out and about.


Isn't part of the problem that the 'free element' is available to too many people. Are we really saying everyone of the age of 60 and beyond should be offered free bus travel, irrespective of whether they are working or not?

Offline Simon

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2012, 08:07:04 PM »
but turning our service into “a fully commercial” service will lead to abandoning the social and environmental purpose of a municipal bus service.

What is a bus service for, exactly? Is it for moving people from where they are to where they want to be, with a minimum of cost and inconvenience?

Or is it a means to deliver maximum returns to shareholders?

Dangerous pinko green communists like me would suggest the former.

Politicians who believe the fallacy that "the market" will always deliver best value will of course say that the latter will deliver the former. Yeah, right, I'll believe it when it actuallly happens.

Isn't part of the problem that the 'free element' is available to too many people. Are we really saying everyone of the age of 60 and beyond should be offered free bus travel, irrespective of whether they are working or not?

Yes, over 60s should have a free bus pass, and so should everyone under the age of 60 too. Free bus passes for everyone, a guaranteed way of reducing the number of cars on the streets :)

How would it be funded? Taxation. I can see your face drop as you're reading this  :wink:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I've never stood for electable office. I've got plenty of sensible ideas, but I don't think the average voter would like them.

Sorry to go off topic, back to the buses now...  :)
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ph1lc

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2012, 11:04:01 PM »
Isn't part of the problem that the 'free element' is available to too many people. Are we really saying everyone of the age of 60 and beyond should be offered free bus travel, irrespective of whether they are working or not?

Absolutely agree Des. In an ideal world bus travel would be free for all pensioners, but times are hard.

We MUST look after the most needy in society and if that means making some of the EXTRA universal benefits for the elderly means tested, it's a price we must pay.

Offline Mart

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2012, 01:23:53 PM »
Absolutely agree Des. In an ideal world bus travel would be free for all pensioners, but times are hard.

Nope. It would be free for everyone and we could call it, I dunno, something like 'Public Transport'. Who knows it could form part of an 'Integrated System' with a 'Policy' and everything.

Perhaps we could even have a 'Member' for it.

Until that happy day comes I'll continue to use me motor.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline Des Morgan

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2012, 04:23:19 PM »
Quote
What is a bus service for, exactly? Is it for moving people from where they are to where they want to be, with a minimum of cost and inconvenience?

Or is it a means to deliver maximum returns to shareholders?

Isn't the use of two extremes as highlighted part of the issue. Why should public transport be constrained by the supposed requirement to be 'low cost' or worse 'cheap' and why should return on investment always be seen as 'too high'

I don't think anyone with a head for figures would consider the return paid to SBC the only shareholder in Thamesdown Transport as being excessive or high, indeed if profit and ROI were the only targets for the managers then they would be slashing services and rasing prices in order to achieve that aim.

The fact is that Thamesdown Transport does run as a public service, the problem we have as a society is that the 'client' wants a level of service for which they are not prepared to pay; but which they want to be funded by those who don't use the service.

The equation that public equals cheap, and private equals expensive is simply untrue. The question has to include a 'what do you want' and a 'what do you want to pay for it' only by asking these questions can you begin to arrive at an answer. What is clear is that you can never have a Rolls Royce service for a Morris Minor price.  A bus ride is perceived by many as 'good value' that doesn't mean the service level is or has to be more frequent as that would be adding functionality  and thereby cost which someone has to pay for

Jean's idea that taxation would fund the 'free bus pass' for anyone over 60 is an honest statement. She is of course motivated by more than just the concept of a wonderful public transport system; she allies her view with that of the 'green agenda' a most laudable aim but one which is not best served by public transport. Of course one can point out that for every 2 passengers that might mean 1 less car journey, equally the cost of running a bus half full is hardly green or economical and as for convenience a bus can never offer the same practical convenience as a car.


Offline Muggins

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2012, 05:20:10 PM »
Although our bus pass is free to us, it still brings in an income to TT - and the aim (again) was not to be kind to pensioners, but convenient - pensioners have time to ride on buses and prove a need to keep routes under danger open.

So I should ride on the routes between commuter times and the government pays TT my fare. Yes it's paid with taxes, but provides a better service so that those who do pay their own fare can catch a bus.

As it happens, I wonder if TT gets anything for me and Mr Muggins?, because I can't remember the last time either of us went on a bus.   I could get on one if I could remember the very sparse times of the No 21 but don't feel confident that I could get on the return bus and/or the alternative walk from the main drive.  Thats a shame, because I would like to be green.

It's not that I don't want to take a bus, it's that it is made difficult for me.  I'd like to go over and visit the Museum once in a while, but have you seen where the buses for Coate stop?
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Offline Terry Reynolds

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2012, 05:53:47 PM »
One thing that always bugs me when I do get a bus pass, is the destiantion of my ticket is shown as the end stop, Is this a means of the TT to get maximum claims or just the way they print the ticket??

Offline Des Morgan

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2012, 05:56:11 PM »
[quoteAlthough our bus pass is free to us, it still brings in an income to TT - and the aim (again) was not to be kind to pensioners, but convenient - pensioners have time to ride on buses and prove a need to keep routes under danger open. ][/quote]

I agree Muggins - what i don't agree with is the age prfole being from 60 - it should be from 65 or whatever the state pension is in the future.

Quote
It's not that I don't want to take a bus, it's that it is made difficult for me.  I'd like to go over and visit the Museum once in a while, but have you seen where the buses for Coate stop

Precisely my point - the provision of a bus service simply cannot meet every level of expectation. In this case i believe a bus for Coate should stop at the bus stop just outside the main entrance to Coate

Offline Muggins

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2012, 06:50:36 PM »
I'd agree with the age being raised, it was handy for me but Mr Muggins was still earning when he first got his - hang on no he wasn't, he didn't claim it until he retired! 

He used it a bit when he first got it, but soon found out why it took me so long to 'slip' into town.

You see, the bus stop at coate, the fact that it is Swindon Favourite place should have been taken into consideration BEFORE they moved the blessed bus stop.

As should all routes, do they go where people want to go and an easy way to pick up passengers is to stop to pick them up or have buses on roads where that is possible.

And forget that mantra about some are paying and some are not, because bus pass or not, they are/have paid that fare.

I remember being sat on the No 24 to ASDA with only 3 other passengers  and all on my own from Groundwell.  the driver said the route didn't pay - that's because it didn't/couldn't stop all the way down Thamesdown Drive, and I'm fairly sure that ASDA paid/subsidised for that route at the time.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Martin Wicks

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2012, 08:26:12 PM »
The qualification age is rising towards 65 Des. I'm 60 and I have to wait until 62 and a bit - the increased pension age for women.

I am in favour of universal benefits and a progressive taxation system. That way people who are very well off pay a higher level of tax. The thing about universal benefits is that everybody gets something. Means tested benefits lead to a situation where the better off see services as being for the poor and they begrudge paying for them. Means testing is very expensive. You need an army of people to operate means tested systems. They also tend to discourage saving because you lose out if you save.

Make no mistake the Municipal Bus service is under threat. If it becomes a "fully commercial" service then any social and environmental considerations go out the window. Moreover, the "transport strategy" of the Council predicts that by 2026 that there will be an increase in vehicle queuing of 153% and an increase in the output of all measured pollutants by over 50%. Take away bus passes rom some pensioners and this will push some people back in their cars and these shocking figures will surely increase.

ph1lc

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2012, 09:08:12 PM »
In an ideal world I could agree with you Martin. Today's world is far from ideal.

Tough times call for tough decisions, and whilst my heart tells me that all pensioner benefits should be universal, my head tells me that the poorest will be best served if a lot of the extra benefits were means tested.


Offline Bassettina

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2012, 06:16:00 AM »
Out of interest, what sort of profits do TT make? What percentage of Thamesdown Transport's profits is paid back to the council. What percentage of profits is reinvested in the service? Is TT cross-subsidising other council services?

I regularly use Stagecoach and Thamesdown buses. Thamesdown are more expensive (considering the distances) but offer a more reliable service, better coverage and more frequent journeys.

I don't have any moral problem with means-testing benefits. There are arguments to let older people use buses for free, but equally it makes sense for those on low income, or job seekers to use the bus for free. Where to we stop? Are we saying that all pensioners are automatically worse off and more deserving of support than anyone of working age?


Offline Jean

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2012, 07:57:57 AM »

Jean's idea that taxation would fund the 'free bus pass' for anyone over 60 is an honest statement. She is of course motivated by more than just the concept of a wonderful public transport system; she allies her view with that of the 'green agenda' a most laudable aim but one which is not best served by public transport. Of course one can point out that for every 2 passengers that might mean 1 less car journey, equally the cost of running a bus half full is hardly green or economical and as for convenience a bus can never offer the same practical convenience as a car.

This was Simon's quote but I fully support what Simon says. I've been arguing for a free public transport system for EVERYONE since the 1960s and before green issues were high on the agenda. It is a practical solution to an ever-growing problem of too much traffic on the roads and to help the aged and infirm (and the fit) to get around. It is ironic that those amongst who are in the most need for a car are not fit to drive! My mum is 89 and she finds it very difficult to walk to the bus stop, but she has no other choice.  As such, I fully support what Martin says - should the infirm (or even the fit!) be expected to hang around catching several buses for a simple journey, just because the direct bus route is axed?

Unlike Simon, I do use a car and it does have practical uses. Like Muggins, I would like to be able to get to the Richard Jefferies Museum by public transport but I don't have 3 hours to waste to make a return journey for a destination that is just 12 miles away. So it does boil down to choice and convenience, but for so many THERE IS NO CHOICE.     
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Offline Des Morgan

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Re: A Municipal Bus Service or a “fully commercial service”?
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2012, 08:33:03 AM »
Quote
I regularly use Stagecoach and Thamesdown buses. Thamesdown are more expensive (considering the distances) but offer a more reliable service, better coverage and more frequent journeys.

There you have it - pay your money take your choice. A more frequent and relaible servce at £x or a less reliable and less frequent service at £y

Sorry Jean - yes it was Simon's quote but I am glad you support him.

Quote
should the infirm (or even the fit!) be expected to hang around catching several buses for a simple journey, just because the direct bus route is axed

Well sad as it may seem the answer is yes. they should expect to have to wait for a bus if that is the servcie on offer. We would all like a direct route from A to B preferably with no stops to delay our wish to arrive at our destination at our convenience. Reality dictates that the bus servce has to cater for 'everyone' and as we know pleasing everyone all the time is darn near impossible.

The concept of 'hanging around' is of course a euphenism for 'wasting my time' or 'being inconvenienced' aspects of life which we all hate but accept as being ever present conditions