A very interesting statistic came my way a couple of weeks ago; that if the Chancellor dropped 10p per litre tax on road fuels, the cost to the public purse would equal that of the government making all bus travel free.
The expert writer admitted that the recent price hikes in fuel may have skewed his analysis, and that the tax take lost might not meet the whole cost of a total bus subsidy, but the principle is one which we should be thinking about in policy representations to government.
Operators are, to be fair, between a rock and a hard place with fuel duty; the trade associations are pushing for a fuel duty discount to mitigate the huge cost burden they are facing. If that discount were only for PSV operations (and maybe HGV) the argument is sound. But there’s always the possibility that the Chancellor would extend this across all fuel supply, and encourage more car use; the very thing the industry should be against.
Bus and coach travel already achieves a huge fuel cost advantage over cars by splitting the cost across more passengers, and it’s vital that this message, in terms of reducing carbon emissions, is the core focus of messaging to government. Electric cars are a pin prick in reducing carbon emissions; public transport offers much, much bigger wins on carbon reduction, even if run on diesel.
In our personal lives, we all depend heavily on car use. It’s important that we put this to one side if we are to win any moral or practical argument. Time and again I see operators commenting on the outrageous price hikes on fuel (and they are outrageous) but the fact is, high fuel prices discourage car mileage, and the bus and coach industry should be poised to be the alternative.
Constantly banging on about fossil fuel prices won’t win the industry the support of the growing green lobby. And I write this knowing the impact the cost has had on the industry.