Co-operate to integrate

'˜You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs', is a well-known saying.

Monday, 27th March 2017, 13:53 pm
Bus met train at Haltwhistle following closure of the railway to Alston in 1976. Such co-operation is almost always at the behest of the local authorities.

Similarly, you cannot open a railway without having an effect on local bus services.

In 1986 the bus services were privatised.

The National Bus Company in England and the Scottish Transport Group were broken up into local bus companies and sold off.

The politicians at the time believed that this would result in local competition and, therefore, greater efficiency and lower fares for passengers.

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However, those experienced people in the industry believed that in a short time the buses would be sucked into a small number of large companies or groups.

The principal groups which emerged were First Group, based in Aberdeen, Stagecoach, based in Perth, Go-Ahead, based in Newcastle, and Arriva, based in Sunderland. The latter is now owned by German Railways (Deutsch Bahn).

Despite the locations of these various operations, these groups now control almost all of the bus services in Britain.

As with all large undertakings, the centralised management of these companies sets the financial targets for their local operators. Unfortunately, such targets can often be impossible to meet for services in rural areas.

The political ideology which requires competition, rather than co-operation, makes it impossible to achieve the level of integration that passengers want.

And because many politicians do not themselves use buses, they cannot understand what the regular bus passengers want.

For nearly 100 years there have been many missed opportunities in Britain to create an integrated transport system, while our neighbours on the continent have established and developed theirs.

There, the bus operators feed and are fed by the railways. They do not moan and groan that the railways steal their traffic.

For example, from 1969 to 1986 almost all of the buses in England were run by the National Bus Company in public ownership.

The railways were also in full public ownership, yet there was no requirement for either of them to talk to the other, so they did not.

The co-ordination of their services only took place in the major cities, and occasionally in the non-metropolitan counties, under the guidance of the local authorities in those areas.

It all comes down to money, of course.

At one point the comparison between Swiss railway finance and British railway finance was that Swiss passengers benefitted from government support equivalent to 98p per mile, while those in Britain received 3p.

The writer has previously referred to government accountants, when he should have mentioned economists.

Accountants record the actual situation in arrears, which is objective and accurate. Economists make projections on the basis of which policy is formed, which is subjective and may or may not turn out to be accurate.

Buses and trains are not in competition with each other. They are public transport partners. Their competitor is the private car.

Talking of which, small ladies can sometimes find that cars are generally designed for larger people.

A few years ago there were clips to hold the seat-belts in a safer and more comfortable position for shorter ladies to stop the belt lying across their neck, which would obviously be highly dangerous in the event of a sudden stop.

Apparently, these clips are no longer available. This means that some smaller drivers now have to sit on cushions to achieve a comfortable driving position.

In this day and age they might well wonder why cars cannot be designed to meet their needs.