Thursday, 16 June 2011
Death Of The Small Independent Bus Company? Maybe, Maybe Not
We had the finest public transport network in the world. British made buses, smart drivers, conductors, routes to everywhere and an interesting industry full of different companies, colours and ways of doing things.
All, however, were of the same view that they were there to run the best possible public service.
1986 put paid to all of that. The deregulation of the bus industry had similar consequences to Beeching's cuts on the railways. The result now is that the service is adequate in most areas, but in rural areas it is being cut to the bone.
The car has taken over from the bus and many people have made it quite clear that they will not swop, regardless how hig running costs and fuel prices go. The bus companies have not helped themselves either. They have not upgraded their equipment, in line with the high standards expected by passengers. If you are going to lure them out of their cars, comfort, wi-fi, smart corporate image etc etc should be a priority. But there is a lack of will, money or desire to do this.
Hence Britain is left with a mediocre bus industry, which is steadily being reduced into four big conglomerates who will run everything. So much hot air has been expended by the politicians from all governments of the past twenty-five years.
Everything else, such as rural transport is being reduced or farmed out to charities. Everything is in a downward direction - less services, lower wages, smaller buses.
'Stop complaining,' said a local civil servant, 'otherwise you won't have any bus service at all.'
The truly sad thing is that none of the public, apart from the odd few, really give a damn. Life has changed. mediocrity has become acceptable. Everybody wants things to be cheap, a bargain or free. The councils have therefore spotted an opportunity to spend as little money as they can. They know, at the end of the day, the moans will be few and far between.
'I know, it's truly awful,' a passenger said to me. 'We're losing our bus, we're getting a rotten service as a replacement, it's going to cost more, none of us want it ...but what can we do?'
Now where's the nearest wall I can bang my head against?