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TfGM “making situation ten times worse”

Sunday 29th March 2020

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It’s been hugely impressive to see central and devolved governments, local authorities and bus operators (with trade association CPT) working together to come up with a pragmatic plan to keep the bus industry in intensive care for the next few weeks.

Slaying the sacred cow of the ‘no better or no worse off’ reimbursement principle for concessionary fares reimbursement by continuing its payment to operators at pre corona levels assuming normal passenger journeys had continued together with Bus Service Operators Grant (normally paid by mileage) and payments for tendered and school contracts also continuing is a masterstroke of pragmatism.

If bus companies can get their costs down to levels similar to these payments by slashing service levels to sensible skeletal levels matching the circa 10-15% (or even less) of normal passenger numbers now travelling by furloughing otherwise surplus staff there’s a good chance of getting through this and eventually moving into the recovery ward.

But there’s always one exception that spoils the party.

And it turns out to be Transport for Greater Manchester.

There are disturbing reports just when operators and authorities have come together in true partnership rapidly agreeing sensible changes (eg concessionary passes valid pre 0930 weekdays) and slashing service levels so buses aren’t trundling round empty with “do not travel” on the destination blinds over in Manchester there’s a head in the sand attitude with officials not even talking to bus operators and demanding services continue as though nothing has changed.

One operator has been ordered to run 27 schoolbuses every day without carrying a single child; another reported a bus running for five hours one evening last week and carried one passenger.

Julian Peddle, the well experienced and hugely knowledgeable director of Centrebus which operates into Greater Manchester with his High Peak company has vented his totally understandable frustration in public.

Julian explained last week “the situation in Manchester is different to anywhere else that we operate. Every other local authority has agreed to pass on the aid from central government to help us keep these vital bus services running, but in Manchester they are refusing point blank to help us. I have written to Michael Renshaw, executive director at TfGM, but had no reply.”

Julian says senior TfGM officials and mayor Andy Burnham have been ‘invisible’ during the crisis adding “because they are not working with operators, they are still running hundreds of nearly empty tendered services, carrying no one and wasting money. Unless this money is made available in the next day or so, bus cuts will have to be made that are far more severe than would be otherwise needed as operators have insufficient money to pay drivers and buy fuel. At a time of national crisis, TfGM is making the situation ten times worse in Manchester.”

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TfGM’s Chief Executive Eamonn Boylan finally made contact with all bus operators by email on Friday outlining how the proposed payments will be made “in accordance with a number of conditions to which we expect you to indicate your agreement”.

Julian points out the conditions TfGM are imposing are them having total control over the network provided and number of staff bus companies employ (ie both bus companies’ income and major cost) in return for a fixed sum of money with a claw back if that turns out to be more than needed; but if it’s insufficient money …. it seems too bad, the company goes under. It means Julian as a Company Director cannot fulfill his Director responsibilities that his business is an assured ‘going concern’.

Another significant bus operator in Greater Manchester has told TfGM they are losing the goodwill of bus drivers by running so many completely unnecessary journeys, pointing out it’s becoming a serious public safety issue.

This is a quite extraordinary state of affairs playing out just at the time you’d expect everyone to be pulling together. It certainly doesn’t bode well for TfGM’s desire to ‘take back control’ through franchising – which is dependent on a shed load of money from Government to prop up the network they deem appropriate. I suspect as TfGM’s shameful attitude becomes known in the DfT and Downing Street that financial support in a post corona world is looking increasingly unlikely.

Roger French

BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.

22 thoughts on “TfGM “making situation ten times worse” Leave a comment

  1. Andy Burnham needs to jolly well forget ego’s and get in line with the rest of the country to tackle this crisis Disgraceful irresponsible behaviour IMO

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like Burnham and Boylan are using the opportunity to effectively Franchise the Manchester area bus services. Once this is over they will then be seen in all the Media saying “ hey look how well we made it work during the crisis and we will now continue the same control”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What about Merseytravel they had, and probably still have,a strange and backward system of showing train times in the 24 hour clock and bus and ferry times in the 12 hour clock! I’d ask the head of Merseytravel how many hours in a day 12 or 24? therefore which makes more sense to use?

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  4. How I agree with Colin Brown. What a heaven sent opportunity for Mayor Burnham and his political coven!! Doubtless none of them have ever run a proper business in real life and perhaps they need to be careful what they wish for, as Roger points out, wasting money on this scale and at this time will not been seen as “helpful” in much higher places than Manchester City Hall. Certainly resembles a scenario you may expect in Soviet Russia.

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  5. The Cornwall Council Liberal Democrat/Independent ruling coalition are ignoring the advice from the Government for people to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel. The Council has launched a new bus network today
    1. Four buses linking CLOSED tourist attractions in North Cornwall running from ten past eight this morning to three minutes past nine this evening
    2. An hourly bus service between Looe and Polperro with one bus every two hours diverting via a CLOSED camping site
    3. Buses to remote hamlets which have never previously enjoyed a Sunday service
    A NHS essential worker was able to travel from his village to the local hospital on a contracted bus departing at twenty-eight minutes past six until last Friday
    The first contracted bus from his village departs at twenty-two minutes to eleven tomorrow

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If ever there was a time for pragmatism and unity, it is now. The great British public are not stupid, nor do they like it when selfish interests come to the fore whilst under attack by a common enemy.

    This partisan and dogmatic stupidity will be remembered. Aside from that…why am I not surprised?!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I work for a local company and we cover School runs…we have been running 90% of the buses empty as no key worker children on them…. we was put on 25 hours a week which saw a reduction in wage of nearly 1000 pound…..we was told on Friday that we are being furloughed….. good I thought as now would only b about 400 pound short…but now tfgm are threatening the company that if they don’t run they lose the contracts permanently….. so they are literally holding the company to ransom and not bothered about company losses or drivers health. … total farce

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When this all over, the surviving bus businesses will be on their knees. The amount of compensation they could claim for being shut down by franchising would be less than before. More corks popping at TfGM

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Roger what do you make of the Transport for Wales solution just announced today I think? It seems to have been welcomed by operators. It gives TfW considerable control over timetables, I’m not sure about fares. Some move towards rail bus integration also although my sources are not clear.

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  10. I think your correspondent above (290320 @ 1348), commenting on the bus situation in Cornwall, really isn’t being fair at all. Remember that we’re only 1 week into full “lockdown”, and with the best will in the world, we cannot respond overnight . . . . even the best scheduling program in the Universe doesn’t have a button F46 to magically re-schedule everything instantly!!

    By references to the relevent websites (below), I’d say that, with most GoCornwall routes running every 2 hours on weekdays, with fewer services on Sundays . . . this is a proportionate initial response to the unfolding situation.
    The FirstKernow routes seem to be running to a 50% timetable, so hourly where it should be every 30 minutes and so on. Again, that seems to be a reasonable initial response.

    I will be the first to acknowledge that I don’t “know” the Cornwall bus network particularly well, but at very short notice, and with a huge number of timetables to recast and then schedule with appropriate driver duties, I’m really not sure what else could be done.
    Strangly enough, we don’t know the identities of, or the detailed travel pattens of, our passengers. We’re guessing as to minimum demand and trying to match it.

    On my companies’ small network of “outside London” services, we’ve been watching the revenue fall off a cliff, with one local service carrying 40 passengers per day where we would expect around 300 or more. The main users of the route are Seniors.
    What should we do? The service is contracted to the local Council, runs every 30 minutes using one bus. If we shrank the service to one every hour, we save a bit of diesel, nothing more. Should we pull the service altogether? What about the 40 passengers who, presumably, are relying on us to run? Damned if we do; damned if we don’t.

    I’ll just also make the point that any detailed assistance from either Central or Local Government is either absent or lacking meaningful data. A big company can weather the storm for a few weeks; smaller companies won’t . . . we’ve already seen TJ Walsh fail as a direct result of Covid-19.
    Will BSOG be paid as though we were operating full mileage, or will DfT only allow claims based on actual scheduled mileage? Will local councils pay for normal contracted timetables, or will they save money and pay on any reduced timetables? And . . . here’s the biggie . . . . what about ENCTS reimbursement? Will they pay based on expected pass usage, or will they seize the opportunity to pay only based on actual usage? If that’s the case, then bye-bye bus industry . . . roundly 40% of our passengers don’t pay an actual fare now!

    Here are the links . . . . if someone has the time to calculate actual PVR versus original planned PVR; I’d be interested to see.

    Click to access COVID_19_Timetables.pdf

    https://www.firstgroup.com/cornwall/plan-journey/timetables/?source_id=2&operator=6&page=1&redirect=no

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t help but think that a better solution in a lot of cases for these minor rural routes would be to run a more-or-less normal timetable but only a couple of days a week – especially in those cases where reducing journeys doesn’t reduce the PVR. There’s only so far you can reduce a village bus service before it stops being of any use – for a lot of routes, there are no commuter journeys to speak of, so the main use is going to be getting people to the shops. But if the service is reduced so that they have 3 hours to wait for the bus back then, with no shops or cafés open beyond the supermarket, they aren’t going to want to kill more than 2 hours waiting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah a good point but have you considered how long you have wait outside a supermarket to actually get in!most, wisely,are taking 1 person at a time.i,with the death rate being at 680 today, advise against local shops and newsagents as,well the one I went in about 5 days ago,had people milling around being indecisive on what to buy then changing their minds and buying non essential things like lottery tickets.it ended up with about 5 people in there and the door was shut allowing the air to stagnate.they government should be shutting down these places.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Roger, I found the Wales announcement after a lot of hunting: it’s not on TfW but on the Government website. Here it is in full.

    NHS staff will receive free travel on buses throughout Wales in return for hardship funding from the Welsh Government over the next 3 months, with free travel already available on Transport for Wales trains

    Transport for Wales will receive additional funding support and a hardship fund has been set up to help bus companies as passenger numbers have fallen by up to 90% as passengers follow the stay-at-home rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The combined support is worth up to £69 million.

    Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said:

    Demand for public transport has reduced significantly as people are following the new rules to stay at home to save lives and protect our NHS.

    Our rail franchise provider, bus companies and community transport operators – many of which are small businesses and charities – are facing significant financial challenges.

    This support will give public transport operators the initial funding they need to continue to deliver services, pay employees and sub-contractors, while we work with them to develop a comprehensive package of measures to secure an efficient, sustainable, and robust bus network.

    The bus hardship fund will be paid monthly up-front for up to 3 months and will temporarily replace existing grant funding provided through the bus services support grant, mandatory concessionary fares and MyTravelPass in the normal course of business.

    In return for financial support from the Welsh Government, bus companies will need to commit to continue to provide a timetabled service and all NHS staff will receive free travel. Transport for Wales is already offering free travel for NHS staff on its services.

    The Minister has also confirmed that, while the stay-at-home rules are in place, free weekend travel on the Traws Cymru network has been suspended and the Cardiff to Anglesey Public Service Obligation (PSO) air service will also be suspended for three months.

    Mr Skates added:

    We are committed to creating a sustainable integrated public transport network across Wales.

    But our priority at the moment is to protect the public, people working on public transport and our NHS. We must act now to ensure when the pandemic is over, we will have a bus and rail network to allow us to achieve this ambition.

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    • I saw that so has Megbus which means all long distance bus services in England have stopped.im not sure if Scottish Citylink, Ulster bus and bus eirian are still running in Scotland and Ireland or if services to the continent , mainly run by flixbus now(former Eurolines services)are running?

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