CPT ‘surprised’ at IPPR report
CPT says the industry is ‘surprised’ at a report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), which has called for a return to a regulated transport system. The study focuses on the differences between bus services in London and elsewhere, as well as the relationship between public and private stakes in rail services. It claims that while policy for London buses seems to be performing reasonably well, it said there are challenges facing rail which need addressing, though these ‘pale in comparison’ to those facing bus markets outside London. Entitled ‘Greasing the wheels: Getting our bus and rail markets on the move’, it recommends greater powers and responsibilities should be given to local bodies to shape local bus markets, with the TfL model replicated in city regions. It also suggests greater integration of transport spending and services by health and education providers (such as hospital shuttles and school buses) and a new long term, national transport strategy to be written and owned by the DfT.
CPT UK sees ‘absolutely no justification’ for such a move. The organisation highlighted bus passengers in the biggest towns and cities outside London are already benefitting from smart and integrated ticketing, new ways of purchasing tickets, high investment by commercial operators in bus fleets and more choice for passengers.
CPT Chief Executive, Simon Posner, said, ‘It is frustrating to see that this latest report from IPPR yet again fails to recognise the benefits of the commercial market which has stemmed the decline in bus patronage and provided the most important people, our passengers, with greater choice. Time and again the evidence shows that where bus services are under the control of cash strapped local authorities, fares are higher (the most expensive urban weekly bus ticket in the country is sold in London), the market is less stable, services are being lost, and passenger satisfaction rates are lower.’
The report claims commercialisation has not resulted in a competitive market. However, CPT has pointed out that buses do not operate in isolation from other modes and are always open to competition from rail, light rail, taxis, cars, cycling and walking. The organisation claims there are many examples across the country of real on-the-road competition between operators large and small.
Simon Posner said, ‘Delivering high quality bus services is a shared responsibility. When operators and local authorities work together in partnership, real benefits for the passenger are achieved – a fact recognised in recent PTEG and Transport Select Committee reports. But the final word has to come from passengers, the people who actually use the buses. A survey by Passenger Focus of 20,000 bus users from outside London gave an overall satisfaction score of 88%, a figure any business would aspire to achieve. The latest figure for London is 83%. This is a clear demonstration that passengers are more satisfied when their services and fares are not controlled by a public authority.’