Thursday, 25 February 2016

How to Ruin a Bus Service - Déjà Vu

(click to enlarge this table)
The most recent service south of Silverstone is service 8. This is a cobbling together of a Northampton town service via Broadway (once many aeons ago Northampton Corporation route 15) with the interurban half hourly service to Towcester. Tacked on to the end are the more rural jouyrneys between Silverstone, Brackley and Buckingham

It is these two hourly extension which Stagecoach is intending to withdraw; in the same way that the company withdrew its extension via Brackley to Oxford on the former X88 service.

Yet again this has not cheered the residents of Syresham and Brackley.

But this time it is worse. Oxfordshire has announced its intention to withdraw all bus subsidy, and this will precipitate the end of many rural links.
Northampton's intentions are similar and set out in this load of tosh policy discussion document.

Radically transforming the way people make journeys in the county and how public transport is provided are at the heart of Northamptonshire County Council’s Total Transport proposal. Over the next fours years the county council will work with partners, businesses and the voluntary sector to see just how this could be achieved.

Currently the council is working with the University of Northampton, the NHS, further education establishments and businesses to collect data to create a snapshot of present and future transport needs.

We don't care about shopping or visiting Aunt Ada.

A detailed business plan will then be drawn up and will be presented to the council’s cabinet, currently scheduled for Autumn this year. The Total Transport model could work by creating a social enterprise model to improve efficiencies and delivery to better meet changing transport needs.

Any profits would then be put back into local communities.

Profits? Are they having a laugh?
Cllr Michael Clarke, county council cabinet member for transport, highways and environment, said: “The traditional way of providing public transport needs to change to keep pace with the way we want to make journeys now and in the future.

But we won't be paying!

We have to look at modal change, changes in working hours and opportunities for more people who wish to work from home. Not only is the current model costly ...

So we won't be paying!

... but it is also inefficient when you consider how congested our roads can be, particularly at peak hours. We will be examining opportunities for staggered working hours and how their introduction might help with the problems of historic ‘rush hour’ congestion.

And while we can’t promise an immediate solution ...

'Cos we don't have a clue what to do.

... I do think it’s important that we start finding a way that not only works but that is also cost-effective as Northamptonshire’s population continues to grow.

'Cos we won't be paying!

We have twin objectives of creating a variety of transport options to meet the changing needs of the travelling public while achieving substantial cost savings to the council.

'Cos we won't be paying!

fbb has been able to find a full translation for these paragraphs in the
Manual of Unmitigated Duplicity-a recipe for Clarity
circulated amongst many County Councils.

In simple terms it goes like this.

1. We haven't got any money for unecomonic bus routes
2. We are hoping to get others to pay
3. But if we can't you'd better buy a car
4. To reduce pollution and congestion you'll go to work at silly times

Or, to pout it another way ...

Our aim is to reduce congestion by withdrawing support from all bus services in the county.

Because we won't be paying.

fbb thinks we get the message. In the meantime there would appear to be the probability of no buses south of Silverstone.

Mick Furn of Brackley ...
... has started a campaign ...
... and Bus Users UK is on the case - in the person of our Northampton Correspondent. Alan wrote to Oxfordshire; who replied, sort of:-

Supported Transport team, on behalf of Cllr David Nimmo-Smith.
Mr Nimmo-Smith is Councillor for posh Henley and may not, perhaps, have the best interests of the forelock touching lower orders of the bits of Oxfordshire between Brackley and Bicester. Here is the reply his minions sent ...

Whilst it is correct that Oxfordshire County Council pay a proportion of the subsidy to run this route, the contract is between Northamptonshire County Council and Stagecoach Midlands. As such it will be for the relevant council officer at Northamptonshire County Council to update you on what they plan to do if the partial subsidy that Oxfordshire County Council contribute to run this route is removed.

Or, being translated, "It ain't nothing to do with us, matey."

Will a few pennies be found to keep this link running after May?

Mick Furn (see above) says that there is some "section 106" money (subsidy from housding developer) in the offing from later in the year.

Will the result be as useless as the Walters Coaches link between Silverstone and Oxford? See previous blogs in this series via "Blog Archive" below and left.
Will the senior citizens of South Northamptonshire have any buses to use their passes on?

Will the cavalry reach the beleaguered fort in time?

Is there any realistic hope for rural bus services?

What does Jeremy say?
"When we are elected, we will restore all bus subsidies, re-nationalise the railways, halve the fares and provide free taxis for anyone who can't get to a bus stop, Workers of the world unite. The people's flag is a bit faded red. Where's my Mao hat?"
"Ahh, that's much better!"

The answer, of course, is not a lot. Because maintaining bus subsidies, keeping taxation low and reducing the deficit and all mutually incompatible.

Apologies for a little bit of satire, but it's all a right mess.
Today on 25th February 2016
the 20th prime number.
a permutable prime with 17.
is the largest number which occurs as a prime factor
     of an order of a sporadic simple group.
a centered heptagonal number.
an Eisenstein prime with no imaginary part
     and real part of the form 3n – 1.
the largest (15th) supersingular prime, which is also a Chen prime.
the twenty-third term of the Euclid–Mullin sequence
and a special day for fbb
Half a cheer for journalism! The Northampton local press (Chronicle and Echo) has just picked up the story.
Only about a week after everyone else.

Snappy reporting!
 Next less controversial Towcester blog 
           Friday 26th February         


  1. So, interpreting all that, 71 today! Happy birthday.

  2. It would be interesting to see how much individual roads cost, and whether they represent value for money. Perhaps the county council should start to close down those that don't generate sufficient benefits to justify the expenditure.

    Intriguingly, the DfT sneeked out a report last week on the value of subsidised bus services, the conclusion of which was that those in urban areas tended to represent high value for money, while most others where of medium value i.e. both generated more benefits than they cost the public purse. But I don't suppose any cash-strapped council is going to take much notice...

  3. "It would be interesting to see how much individual roads cost, and whether they represent value for money. Perhaps the county council should start to close down those that don't generate sufficient benefits to justify the expenditure."

    The difference between roads and buses is that a hardly-used road costs next to nothing on maintenance, whereas the less used a bus service is, the more expensive it is to provide subsidy for it.

    1. The cost of keeping a road in service is not just maintenance. Every road has to be inspected at regular intervals, records have to be kept and so on. I can't remember the minimum period in weeks for an inspection, but even for a quiet road it represents a lot of time.

  4. Similar issues and cuts in part or whole are increasingly being reported at most other authorities around the country. With larger cuts in the financial grant from Government forecast for next year will there be any budget/s left for non commercial services?

    Does the reaction of operators help to drive home the reality of where this appears to be going?

    In a many cases when cuts to the budget for supported services occur operators then offer to take on bits of what had been subsidised services or journeys. The resulting situation is not then always as 100% bad as it originally seemed. What message or impression does this send out to the politicians and public?

    That the operators could do more without subsidy etc. (the subject of the profits they make then usually arises).

    It seems to me that we are heading for a situation where buses will generally only operate in the day time in urban and inter urban areas (and in some tourist areas).

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