Subsidies Don't Last For Ever
Sunday 3 December 2023
When The Money Runs Out
What has happened over the last few years way out west has to be one of he more impressive developments in the UK bus industry.
Way back when, the Great Western Railway and the National Bus Company (this is 1929!) merged their interests in the West Country to form the Western National Omnibus Company. The operation expanded hugely into Devon, Dorset, Somerset and the Bristol area. Over the years Western National got split up, rebranded, joined together, renamed and eventually privatised.
The bits of Western National in Cornwall and over the border in the Plymouth area of Devon were provatised ...
... and sold off ending up with First Bus.
First came |Truronian ...
Then Western Greyhound began to lose its way financially;y, was sold on and withing weeks went bust. The business was carved up with First gaining the majority and thus the owners of the former Western National regained most of their domination of Cornwall.
Then politics stepped in!
As an "experiment", HMG gave Cornwall Council the powers to take responsibility for ALL the buses in the county, a sort-of predecessor to the franchising system of the Bee Bus in Manchester. Bit it was not a complete take-over as it is in Manchester.
In simple terms the Vouncil rolled together all the tendered work in the county and offered it for re-tendering. Thus it was that First lost all its tendered work (except for some big College contracts) in favour of "Buses for Cornwall" which went to GoAhead.
Under this scheme. the County re--introduced many rural bus links (which still don't carry many passengers) and improved daytime frequencies with the return of evening and Sunday services.
Sounds fantastic - snd is was and still is (although some of the dafter enhancements have been withdrawn).
It was not a smooth ride. The Council was busy trumpeting its new "filly integrated" network whilst the pot passenger had to contend with TWO networks (First and GoAhead) with very uncoordinated timetables ad very uncoordinated fares.
There were even two separate route maps.
Finally, after much negotiation, things began to come together. Now fares are all inter-available, there is one set of timetable books ...
Then more even larger largesse was provided to allow for an overall reduction of fares by approx one third.
Is it working? Any analysis has been rendered more difficult by the arrival of the £2 fare cap BUT, the Council has not been shouting loudly about the increase in passengers as a result of the original one third off deal.
Cheaper fares are, of course, good for the psseynger - but are they good for the bus company or good for the \County. In simple term, who pays the bill?
The calculations are simple.
100 people travel by bus at £3 each - revenue £300
Reduce fares by one third.
100 people travel by bus at £2 each - revenue £200
You need either a subsidy OR
50 new passengers at £2 each
to bayance the books.
This is a 50% growth.
If that growth were to happen, the financial status quo would be preserved. If not, subsidy will be needed for ever.
IF that growth had happened in Cornwall, the county would have been partying long into many many nights. They haven't so it hasn't.
So the challenge remains - what happens ...
When The Money Runs Out
Those of us who are taxpayers and voters in the 2024 General Election ought to be told. The people of Cornwall might be in for an almighty shock!
It may come as surprise to some "knockers" of the Bible, but it is not a science textbook. Even more surprising is the fact that the story of the beginning of, well, everything is os very accurate indeed in terms of the science of the day.
The older translations of the Bible talk about "separating the waters from the waters" and of God building "a dome which was called sky."
But what happens of we use modern scientific knowyledgr and retell the verses of Genesis Chapter 1. Modern lingo in blue.
Day 0 : in the beginning he earth was
formless and desolate
Space and time did not exist
Day 1 : God said "let there be light"
Space was filled with ionised hydrogen
which glowed bright
Day 2 :Let there be a dome ...
Solid matter separates out
Day 3 : Let the earth produce plants
Simple organic plant life appears
which creates oxygen
Day 4 : The sun. moon and stars arrive
The oxygen creates a clear atmosphere.
replacing the toxicity of the cooling earth
Day 5 : Living things appear in the sea
Simple lfte forms develop in the water,
the Primeval Soup
Day 6 : Land animals and ultimately man
The Bible is not interested in how long a "God-year" might be - the Bible doesn't care. Despite this incomplete report, it is beyond remarkable that The Bible gets it so right. A miracle, in fact?
What the chapter does emphasise is that, wherever you look at God's Creation, "It was Good".
So summats gone wrong!
Next D ABC blog : Monday 4th December