Thursday 14 December 2023

It Seems Inescapable ...

 ... Politics and Transport

Some of fbbs readers may remember the positive vibes that accompanied privatisation and deregulation proposals back in the early 1980s. Bus Companies would be free to run what the people wanted, their buses going where the people wanted and at a cheap fares held low because of competition.

In rural areas  local operators would be free to run buses for their local residents at cheap fares as they will be freed from the huge costs and towering administration of the bad old nationalised companies. Local authorities would not br allowed to maintain their monopoly of services withing the town boundaries.

It would all be wonderful.

 N ottingham's
 N o Cash
 N astiness
 N orthern
 N onsense

Of course, the bus companies thought it was all great. With no need to ask the traffic commissioner to approve fare rises, they could charge what the market would stand. If there was competition, the intrusive newcomer could be easily run off the road ising the greater resources of the big group.

And so it was that visionary politics and or party political dogma removed the doimination of the nationaslised and highly regulated bus companies and replaced them with commercially motivated profit orientated dominating groups.

The poor rural bus passenger stood no chance, long term. Pearce and Crump would have been a failure even of the Titfield Branch had remained closed!
And, talking of nationalised bus services, are we deliriously happy that Stagecoach, GoAhead and Arriva are now owned by international investment companies who have no loyalty whatsoever to dear old Blighty. First Bus was subject to a similar take-over offer, but it was rejected - for now!

The few local authorities that held on to their bus companies, albeit in an "arms length" set up, have an excellent reputation for good service all round. One such is Notingham.

Smart vehicles ...
... excellent publicity IN PRINT ...
... as above at the raiway station. And they've got trams.
 But Nottingham City is bankrupt.
One way of getting out of this embarrassing situation is to sell assets. So will Nottingham City be forced to sell its lovely bus and tram system?

And what about Brighton?
Another "fire sale" in the offing? Maybe there is a bonus - at least a sale would get rid of the silly new livery ...
... and get back to something more sensible that customers will recognise.
And even "lowly" Somerset could be next.
But they do not run their own services.

Meanwhile, how are things going astride the Pennines?
We already know that Manchester's Bee Network has struggled mightily.
Mayor Andy Burnham - he of the big plans for a new network (remember his maps, (click on the graphic below to enlarge) - is coming to realise that a rebrand with a trendy apian logo, buckets of yellow paint and new "contractors" do not necessarily make a working network.

It ain't that simple, Andy.

He is on record as stating that the bids from the wonderful Bee Network franchisees wer "significantly higher than expected". And those that won contracts began with horrific staff shortages.

It ain't that simple, Andy.

Meanwhile in Merseyside ...
... Steve Rotheram has ordered even more yellow paint and is aiming to get a very small part of his new but expanded network into St Helens by 2026.

So no rush then?
Rumours are flying around that some routes are to be doubled in frequency from 2026 although nothing has yet been published officially.

And as for West Yorkshire (That"s the lovely Tracy as mayor) and South Yorkshire - who knows?

And still we do not know where the long-term money is coming from. Andy Burnham expects his wonderful Bees to attract so many passengers (30% increase) that the new network will pay for itself. In your dreams, Andy!

His original 10% growth since the bees started buzzing (10% of what compared with what?) seems to have been downgraded to 8% in recent pronouncements.

And if "our friends in the north" want to see the huge benefits of a fully regulated system as in London, they should reads Roger French's blog from Saturday Last.
For the new SL1 setvice, he recorded no publicity whatsoever, "helpful" staff who didn't know the bus route, confused passengers ringing the bell to get off at stops not served by the "express" and very poor regulation of the service under pressure. Of course, there are no maps and no timetables!

That's the much vaunted London regulated system for you.

Thank goodness for Robert Munster who, as a dedicated London enthusiast, publishes all "red bus" timetables in various formats. They are all too big to show in their entirety in this blog, but the extract below is a sample. (Click on the timetable to enlarge it)

To the mess we can add the various Government grants and the challenge of what will happen when they end.

fbb has often opined that the French model of franchising a complete city or regional network is the best - but in France there is no shortage of subsidy money.
You Couldn't Make It Up

Now here is the plan. With world wide super human powers, you have the ability and the desire to "change the world" for ever.

What sort of leader would you choose to be?

Maybe a strong, determined and highly effective political leader. You would need to be a dictator of some sort, however.
Maybe a strong, determined and highly effective military leader. You would need to be a dictator of some sort however.
Maybe someone with supernatural powers to make everyone perfect?
Whatever the type of leader, you would need armies of enforcement, suitable punishments "pour encourager les autres". 
You would need panoply of superiority, a grand palace and a huge accompaniment of support staff.
It would be a big job.

You would not be a jobbing carpenter from a tinpot village near a lake ...

 N azarene
 N onentity?

... one illegitimately born in a cave in another tinpot village of no political or social importance.
You would not lead for only three years; ending up being executed; ending up being a total failure.
Yet ... maybe it is what happened three days later ...

But, you couldn't, you wouldn't, make it up even if you tried.
 Next O ABC blog : Friday 15th December 


  1. Sorry FBB, but you are not "up to date" with the situation in Brighton. You say: "Another "fire sale" in the offing? " Nope. They have already sold it - in 1997!


    1. And even then it wasn't the larger red & cream Brighton & Hove as pictured which was never council owned but the much smaller blue Brighton Buses, though if you go back far enough they did run in red & cream for a while as part of a joint operation about 60 years ago.

  2. What the public sector did in shire counties before 1986 was to suppress frequent urban routes to run rural ones instead. Many urban and interurban routes ran at better frequencies subsequently, a trend that had sadly started to reverse shortly before COVID arrived.

  3. Why would Brighton & Hove council going bust result in Go-Ahead-owned B&H Buses changing their livery?