I’m a Bus Manager, Get Me Out of Here!

Sunday 28th November 2021

Life is tough at the top, they say, and it’s never more true for bus company managers wrestling with continuing pandemic pressures of running a bus company. Not enough passengers; not enough bus drivers; not enough financial support; no certainty of future Government funding; poor reimbursement for concessionary travel on the horizon; criticism if service cuts and/or fare increases are proposed; continuing congestion; some councils misguidedly offering free car parking to ‘boost High Street trade in the run up to Christmas’; rising cost of diesel and staff pay with average industry costs increasing by around 10% but under DfT rules fares can only go up by RPI … are just some of the issues in managers’ inbox at the moment.

I caught up with a band of dedicated senior managers on a ‘Zoom’ call last week sharing experiences and there was a distinctly gloomy atmosphere about what the next six months will bring.

Normally these meet ups among members of what’s known as ‘The Ten Per Cent Club’ – formed back in John Prescott’s time when he set a target of achieving ten per cent growth in bus passengers over a decade, but in club members’ view was achievable in much shorter timescales with the right approach – are full of positivity with free flowing enthusiasm, energy and innovative ideas. Last Tuesday’s session couldn’t have been more of a contrast.

Never has there been so much uncertainty about vital funding to keep services going in contrast to the last twenty months of pandemic support payments while numbers travelling reduced to as low as 10% of normal times.

Passenger numbers may have recovered to around 70% but many bus companies are incurring losses which unlike light rail operations and heavy rail networks are not being covered by the Department for Transport.

TfL’s prediction of huge service cuts has been well publicised in recent days following dire pronouncements from the finance director as crucial talks are held with the DfT (and no doubt the Treasury will be in there too) regarding funding beyond 11th December with passenger journeys in London still significantly below pre Covid levels.

It seems incredible yet again – it must be the third time since March 2020 – we’re in a position where there’s no certainty of funding beyond the next fortnight. This is no way to run the Capital’s transport.

Despite all this uncertainty mayors in other metropolitan areas are still naively waxing lyrically about the benefits of franchising. Have they not adjusted their financial models to take account of the latest trends in both revenue (shortfalls) and costs (increases)?

While the scale of funding needed is not as extreme as in London for provincial bus operators there’s still a significant shortfall that can’t just be ignored. Claims have been submitted to the Department for Transport for Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) which replaced Covid Bus Service Support Grant in September to help sustain services while passenger numbers continue below pre pandemic levels, but no one is certain how much they’ll receive or when they’ll be paid.

One company with a December financial year end has to assume the DfT will honour its promise and come up with some funding at some point, not that they know how much it’ll be, which is going to make for an interesting end of audit review with the company’s auditors.

Another well known highly respected urban operator with an annual turnover of around £40 million is reporting “a gap of around £1.2 million based on our current projections” and that’s making an optimistic assumption they’ll receive the full claim submitted. 

You can’t carry on running a business and fulfill director’s responsibilities like that.

It seems staff shortages are impacting the DfT as well as bus driver availability with so many claims unprocessed and no explanations if some are paid while others are not where companies submit multiple claims for different accounting units. It’s all shrouded in mystery.

BRG ceases in April 2022 when it’s highly unlikely passenger numbers will have fully recovered, not least following the latest news on Covid variants. Concessionary pass reimbursement payments will also revert to the pre-Covid formula from that date meaning further loss of income.

And all this when the National Bis Strategy’s Bus Back Better boosterism is due to begin next April. Consultants at Arup are beavering away analysing Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) all 79 local transport authorities were obliged to submit by the end of October to fund the sunlit uplands of bus travel nirvana promised in the Strategy published in March.

It’s not surprising reassurance from the Prime Minister himself with his personal endorsement to buses in the documents’s introduction has quickly waned with many feeling it’s yet another example of false promises dreamt up in his surreal Peppa Pig world.

Word on the street is funding bids submitted in the 79 BSIPs comes to in excess of £10 billion whereas available funding once the promised 4,000 electric and hydrogen buses have been paid for along with BRG through to April is not going to be much more than £1billion. Many local authorities are going to be disappointed and you can bet those that do end up getting a financial hand out will feature heavily in any Government announcement along with a smiling Grant Shapps standing alongside a Tory MP from the 2019 intake in a few northern red wall seats.

Adding to these woes, a 19th January cliff edge deadline is fast approaching. That’s the date by when bus companies must submit registrations to the Traffic Commissioners to amend bus timetables (including service withdrawals) applicable ten weeks later from 1st April.

If funding uncertainty is not removed by then bus companies will have to enact Plan B’s service cuts whether or not they eventually end up being one of the lucky BSIP roulette wheel winners. This will mean more pressure on already insufficient local authority budgets if serious reductions in bus provision are to be mitigated or avoided.

On the upside, the general thinking is the industry is now past the worst of the driver shortage despite Government continued attempts to lure PCV licence holders over to HGV driving – a DfT letter sent to all licence holders promoting the virtues of lorry driving has now been followed by paid adverts targeting bus drivers on Facebook.

Despite all this the stoic nature, dedication and enthusiasm of bus company managers shines through and there’s no question of wanting to ‘get out of here’. They’e tackling the issues head on and doing the best for passengers, as they’ve always done.

Good for them.

Roger French

42 thoughts on “I’m a Bus Manager, Get Me Out of Here!

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  1. To get people back on to buses services need to be there in the first place and in much of England you have no services or at best a Skelton service and even those service are not reliable another issue is route stability, you can have a bus service one day and the next day it is gone so people have no confidence in using buses

    There is the bus back Better funding which is for England only Excluding London and presumably some of the city regions that are getting separate funding, Councils though do not have a good track record with funding bus services. Council though have been given little guidance on bidding for this funding it might have been better to split the funding basically by population in each of the LTA’s and adjusting that a bit so areas which already have good bus services get a bit less and those with poor service a bit more

    With regard to funding new electric and hydrogen buses the government should just fund the cost difference. Electric buses will be a problem in rural area as many are served by lots off small operators installing charging points in all those garages will be very expensive an even bigger issue is in many cases the grid will not have the capacity, Range will be another issue

    Even with the Bus Back Better on gong funding will be needed. There could be a small charge on Public Car Parking spaces say £12 a year per parking place. It may not help much in large cities but in the more rural areas would raise as lot of money. £12 a year would only be a few pence a day . This would apply even if the parking is free

    A charge should be bought back for Concessionary passes say £12 a year but Free for Pensioners on certain benefits or it could be Free for non tax paying pensioners. Another option would be to treat the passes as a benefit in kind so that they become a taxable benefit
    I think nost pensioners would be happy to pay a small charge for the passes if they got a decent bus service

    To encourage better bus usage bus fares could be cut significantly for off peak travel. In most areas off peak travel consists of about 90% concessionary passes so fare revenue is minimal in any case

    The government could factor in that increased bus usage reduces congestion and pollution and even road accidents. May be the government could reward bus companies that increase usage with a bit more funding or lower taxes

    Better use could be made of DRM. These should be used only for the very rural areas which is not the case at present and could feed into transport hubs for onward travel. Concessionary passes should be excepted on DRM but a supplementary fare should be charged say a £1 this would need a change to the current scheme

    Care should be taken with DRM not to undermine existing bus services just the loss of one or two passengers on the existing service could maker them loss making

    Consideration could be made of implementing flexible bus services. These could be a point to point service but could make small deviations from the basic route so as to serve a housing estate or retail park etc

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  2. Wow . . . I hadn’t summated the BSIP bids, but bids for £10bn with an “expected” actual fund of £1bn . . . again, Wow!!

    Your point about “fulfilling director’s responsibilities” is also well made . . . if I was a director of a bus company, I’d be making an assumption that my passenger numbers were unlikely to recover much more, and that my current farebox revenue was also unlikely to increase by very much. I’d be making my plans for April 2022 accordingly . . . and if that means abandoning marginal routes and journeys . . . so be it.
    That sounds harsh, and it is harsh, but a commercial bus company is NOT a “social service”, and those who wring their hands in dismay need to realise that single fact. During lockdown 1, passenger numbers fell off the proverbial cliff, and haven’t fully recovered . . . 18 months later, that tells me that those ex-passengers have now made alternative arrangements and will never return.

    Buses do best where there are decent passenger numbers travelling . . . so the industry needs to concentrate on those routes and times when that happens . . . otherwise it risks becoming a “marginal” industry, where buses run where and when passengers don’t really want them, but where the politicians “hope” that passengers will travel. It’s 1986 all over again, chaps . . . .

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  3. If bus companies just focus on profitable routes and ignore the marginal rout the decline in bus usage will just decline in fact they need to grow the network. It makes the services more attractive to users and can help reduce costs. The current situation of the constant axing of routes just increases costs and causes more routes to be axed and the downward spiral continues

    The industry need more funding to help get out out of the spiral of decline but is also in need of far better management sand marketing. Well marketing is almost none existent

    Bus are a choice of last resort. If you have no other option you use the bus but otherwise you avoid them. Bus companies current passengers are about 90% plus Concessionary pass holders sand schoolchildren

    If you car breaks down you are more likely to use a taxi than bus. Almost as cheap and takes you door to door when you want to travel and it is reliable unlike buses

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  4. My impression of taxis is that they are only reliable if you are travelling when hardly anyone else wants to, otherwise they suffer from under supply – try getting a taxi at school time in a small town, for instance. Buses obviously best when there are a decent number travelling. Is there a gap in the middle of those two demand profiles, or do they overlap? My guess is there’s a gap.

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  5. Who would most certainly want to be a bus industry manager now indeed? And yesterday’s news (not unexpected) that a new variant of Covid will soon be sweeping the World, helped in good part by ceaseless foreign travel and various forms of uninvited migration coming to our shores, is yet another challenge. So! Instant and drastic solutions required. I would have thought a very good time to grasp the nettle NOW, face the inevitable, solve Driver shortages, passenger shortfalls and possible financial ruin and reduce most ordinary services to match demand as soon as possible. Leave the few deeply rural services and perhaps a few infrequent ones alone, as they can be run at marginal costs off school buses as most are already. If not, why not? IF or when passengers return, highly doubtful, return to the service level required. Covid has merely speeded up by about five years or more what would have inevitably happened anyway. Slowly but surely, and inspite of rising population figures, bus travel was, and has been for some time, in slow decline in most places. The government will always support rail over bus however warm the words, as those with the loudest voices and the sharpest elbows use trains (and cars!) but not buses.

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      1. No there’s no evidence that illegal immigrants are a major vector for coronavirus but there is evidence that the right wing governments that the people who believe such nonsense vote for are thinking of of Boris, Donald and Jar Bolisario as the market decides not common sense.Boris has done nothing until today and I doubt that they will enforce what little he’s brought in today.As for the illegal immigrantion best get use to it as it’s going to get a lot worse as the world warms up and remember one day we could be those immigrants!

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  6. Cutting back services even more will just further accelerate the move away from buses and is not the answer

    Yes there can be as problem with taxis in rural areas as most are doing the council school runs. More buses would reduce the need for taxis for school runs and new routes could be introduced to reduce the need for taxis particularly is school start and finish times were staggered small amount. If mini buses were used rather than taxis they would be of better use for bus service between school hours
    Quite often in a relatively small areas up to 50 taxis can be doing school runs. It is very costly and not very efficient
    With mini buses it would be more work for the bus companies reducing their fixed overheads. They might even be able to use them for airport runs etc for extra revenue or theatre runs

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  7. Living in a town, Fleet, with now only a 2 hourly service to Aldershot, 3 hourly to Reading and hourly to Farnborough, we fear the worst.
    How will Hampshire have the money to keep them going, after all the cuts over the last 10 years?
    There are not nearly enough passengers and noone is telling people to use public transport as they should be, when emissions and fuel prices are rising, with ever more car and van traffic. Chris Whitty (Telegraph, Saturday) tells us there is nothing to fear from the latest variant, yet the Government and the BBC tell us otherwise with the usual message of doom and fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I must admit if I was a bus company manager I would be looking at a much smaller operation in future. Recent changes to make masks compulsory again reinforce the view that public transport is unsafe, unlike hospitality venues

    As for the public versus private debate the amount of public money pouring in will just increase the calls. A London style service is no longer the nirvana it was and any LA taking over will be blamed for cuts.

    This may not be the end for many companies, but it might be the beginning of the end

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  9. An unprofitable route is, by definition, under-used. Why should a bus company pay attention to an under-used service . . . far better to concentrate on a well-used route and grow those passenger numbers by careful attention to the timetable offered.

    I agree that an unprofitable route might well be made less unprofitable by using a school or college bus and filling in the daytime period, although a school bus will use a part-time driver . . . some element of staff cost as well as fuel cost would need to be built-in to the costings. We seem to have seen that commuter usage has declined markedly, so infilling for shopping times is a good way to proceed . . . although what about the shop workers and essential travellers to hospitals? They’ll still need a peak-hour service . . . so we’ll need another bus and driver at the same time as the school bus . . . oops!!

    There is no one-size-fits-all answer . . . every town will have its own needs. What IS essential is that we don’t try to find a solution to one place, and then enforce it everywhere. What might work in, for example, Banbury (population 47K), won’t work in Chippenham (population 45K) or Bury St Edmunds (population 41K).

    I stand by my comments earlier and previously . . . if the wider industry, outside the Leeds’s, the Birmingham’s and the Oxford’s, is to survive meaningfully, the time is now to rebalance the networks to what can be afforded, and then to start to re-grow the business. The time to try out new ideas, which will need a period to establish themselves, is not now.
    If an LTA wishes to support socially-necessary services, then let them do so. If (and three years ago I’d never have written this sentence!!) an LTA wants to head down the franchising direction, then let them do so . . . they’ll soon see that it’s not that easy!!

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  10. Bus Managers must be be doing a stirling job if the bus industry is in Intensive Care and they can only be kept going by being propped up by public sector funding. In 5 years time, Stagecoach, Arriva, First, Go-ahead, National Express won’t exist, they will be part of a new body Great British Buses..

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  11. It’s not just bus operators that have to deal with all this uncertainty, think of the local authorities having to make sense of it all! Quite reasonably, the Dft has stated the Bus Service Improvement Plans are just that and shouldn’t be used to prop up the existing network. Fine, except many of the assumptions in these BSIPs rely on core services and corridors being in existence. How do you reasonably improve evening and Sunday services with this funding if there are fewer buses running in the week? I think creativity will be the key!

    I see Oxfordshire County Council has entered into an agreement with operators to better match supply and demand and, interestingly, involves some route swapping between operators. Changes are happening from January next year. This makes sense to me. What is the point of two operators chasing each other up the road for a diminished number of passengers with presumably neither concern making any money? I think this is a turning point. If this can happen in one of the country’s deregulation ‘success stories’, then it can happen anywhere. Deregulation in all but name RIP.

    On a final note, I see Terence Uden has not missed his usual trick by mentioning ‘uninvited migration’ in one of his posts. There are plenty of discussion forums out there in which he can write about such things and I fail to see how this comment has anything remotely to do with the issues faced by bus company managers or indeed whether even one case of the new Covid variant can be determined to be caused by such migration. You never know, some of these migrants that eventually get asylum may end up driving buses, Terence.

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  12. Dan is quite right with his comment . . . in the commercial bus company it is all too easy to simply say “leave it to the LTA”!! If the LTA is out of funds . . . what then?? Creativity will very much be the word . . . good luck with that!!

    It might be worth looking at the Dorset CC (so NOT Bournemouth or Poole) situation . . . around 8/10 years ago, they decided that they would only subsidise those routes that carried “meaningful” passenger numbers. Yes . . . a bus map of the County has huge areas of emptiness, but has it changed society very much?? The towns at Dorchester; Blandford and Sherborne don’t seem to be markedly different as a result of fewer buses running.

    My point is that, in a very rural county, with very few buses (almost nothing runs at hourly or better outside Weymouth or the Weymouth-Dorchester corridor) . . . life continues. The same can be said of any rural county, or any county with few sizeable towns within the boundaries. The bus is no longer “essential” to society, whatever Boris says.

    The Dorset BSIP {https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/bus-service-improvement-plan/2021-bus-service-improvement-plan-position-statement} talks the usual nonsense about DRT and bus hubs . . . but one interesting comment is that they are looking for a core network every 30 minutes between 0700 and 1900 . . . any evening services will be “on demand”. It is rather light on any detail, though.

    Just a thought . . . what happens to a BSIP if there is no funding from Westminster?? Is that it? An Enhanced Partnership with no buses? And how will Arup determine the winners and losers?? Does anyone know?

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  13. Interesting – none of the comments I’ve read here mention that it is in the country’s interest (i.e. all of us) to get more people using public transport – buses and trains, so it really does matter that the managers who know how to run these services are having a hard time.

    I also saw no mention of integration (bus – rail – walking/cycling); many of the journeys I have needed or wanted to make have for a long time been impossible or impractical (or were possible, but not at the times I needed to make them) because bus and train services are not co-ordinated. I don’t want gratuitously to make managers’ lives more difficult, but if they don’t talk to one another when it comes to timetabling their services, integration will be sketchy at best. I really want to be able to travel on public transport, but I can’t if the possibility isn’t there. And integration could be a quick win: one of my gripes with the rail industry is that it sits back and accepts the ‘about 10% of total travel’ figures when journalists bring it up. It is, for practical purposes meaningless – for example no travel is possible (now) by rail from Bude, or Hawkhurst, or Keswick. But where and when there is a good service (e,g, Sevenoaks to London (up to midnight) I imagine the percentage travelling by train is much higher – over 50% is my guess. The same applies to overall public transport, and the joint rail/bus industry should have that figure ready to roll out at news interviews and to face the DfT with. But if the industry itself took integration seriously, there is a huge market for travel that at present has no practical bus+rail offer.

    As well as integration, there is a big unsatisfied market for fast interurban travel where there is no rail offer – it is tragic that almost all express bus/coach services duplicate rail services rather than co-ordinate with them. How nice (for example) it would have been if, when National Express ran the east coast railway – with the tag ‘Making travel Easier’, it could have used one or two of its coaches to meet trains to give an integrated service to, say, Ripon or Richmond. All it needed to do was to ensure its rail division talked to its coach division.

    I write not in anger, but in frustration…

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    1. I agree with Rick, integration is the key. In Switzerland trains call at every station at the same minutes past the hour seven days per week. A few minutes before each train arrival local buses arrive. After the trains depart all the buses depart. Then it goes quiet until the next train arrival. Bus routes are designed so buses can complete their round trips in time for each train arrival.

      This will probably blow UK minds!

      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306422461_Watching_the_Swiss_A_network_approach_to_rural_and_exurban_public_transport

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  14. My bus route into work takes an A road for several miles which is gridlocked by congestion, resulting in heavy delays which must increase the PVR of the service, making it less attractive to non-bus users. On a bad day buses are severely delayed due to congestion. There is currently a consultation about turning 1 lane into a shared bus/cycle lane which would surely make services more attractive, there are 15 buses an hour run by 3 companies. The responses the but consultation can best be summarises as:
    1 – car users who don’t like the reduction of a lane which they think will increase congestion. “I never see a bus anyway” and nobody cycles down this road, so give us back the lane
    2- cyclists: don’t want to share with buses as they might run me over, they just pump out fumes, buses should be in the general traffic
    3 – a few bus passengers supporting the idea
    4 – bus companies: totally silent, haven’t summitted a single response nor encouraged their passengers to do so.
    So where are the bus managers trying to grow their businesses?

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  15. Rick . . . some good points made here. Frustration is very much the word . . . most bus and train managers are keen to expand their slice of the overall market; there’s nothing as good as watching passenger numbers (and revenue) going up!! We can all see a way forward (maybe several ways), but it is intensely frustrating that others can’t . . . no increase in vehicle fuel duty for over 10 years, for example; a recent reduction in air duty in the last budget; large fares increases on trains each year . . . the list goes on.

    As far as integration between modes (or even within modes) goes . . . we can all quote stories when the railways change timetables, wrecking any bus/rail connections that may exist; by the time the bus company finds out and manages to re-timetable the buses, it’s several weeks later, and the passenger has gone, maybe for ever.
    Bus companies are not supposed to talk to each other, so a timetable from Company A that runs every 30 minutes and interworks perfectly with another timetable from Company B that runs every 30 minutes can be ruined if Company A changes their times to meet train connections that have been changed without notice (Competition Law precludes discussions about co-ordinated timetables, unless a third party is involved. The same Law precludes discussions about joint fares and ticketing, unless a third party is involved).

    Prior to deregulation . . . the Traffic Commissioners would prevent timetable changes if another operator objected, or if it wrecked a joint timetable, and would enforce jointly-available fares if asked to. This was all lost in 1986 in the interests of “competition”. There is no one organisation now that can “bang heads together” when it is obviously in the interests of the passenger . . . even something sensible like having bus timetables at rail stations or rail timetables in bus stations has gone nowadays. One does hope that the new “Enhanced Partnerships” will help here, but these shouldn’t be necessary . . . it’s all common sense!!

    Frustration? You bet . . . !!!

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  16. Lord Prescott expected the railways to do all the work for the bus companies with stuff like Plus Bus and endless bus add ons and didn’t want to give the rail staff any discounts on them.It is all based on the wrong premise that people will volunteer to give up their cars and based on the concept of the car as a form of travel rather than what it really is a status symbol….which is why you get Rolls Royce cars but not buses! Although conversely you do get Mercedes Benz buses and trucks plus upmarket cars however I suppose if you fly on a Boeing 787 the engine is likely to be a Rolls Royce! Prescott seemed unable to grasp the nettle that only way to stop cars rapidly destroying the planet is to stop people owning them to begin with!I would get rid of the driving license and license the cars themselves like firearms so owning a high powered sports car would be the difference between applying for a license for an 7.62mm assult rifle and a .410 shotgun.One you could argue you need the other your couldn’t.

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  17. I think now is the time to remove buses from being subject to the competition law that stops bus companies talking to each other and have a more flexible approach regarding registration periods where reactions to external changes like altered train or other bus connections can be implimented much quicker than substancial service changes.

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  18. Am I the only person to make no sense of this Alice in Wonderland? Making our way through the regular scheduled cuts, the (ever changing) daily cuts and the unscheduled cuts and diversions and timekeeping adjustments to try and work out what might turn up at all, let alone when (or where among our multiple routes), is a nigh-on impossible task; though I suppose on the upside it keeps the bus managers in a job, and gives them something to chat about amongst themselves at their next Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A few lost passengers wander around, forlornly staring at their mobile phones, in the vain hope their number will come up in the bus lottery.

    Or just give up. It’s easier. And cheaper too. Even if it leaves those bus managers scratching their heads over their spreadsheets.

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  19. Regarding the comment by Dan Tancock in praising Oxfordshire County Council’s initiative in co-ordinating services, this was done some years ago, and this latest exercise as far as I am aware is just tidying up the rather messy situation of route sharing. As I suggested in my comments, presumably reducing services to match demand. Quite a step forward for a Council who totally washed their hands of buses some time ago and were about to ban them altogether from the City Centre in the recent past. And my comments about needless foreign travel and migration are very relevant as Covid is a highly infectious disease and the new variant now spreading like wildfire is going to be yet another serious step in reducing bus travel demand.

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  20. The cliff edge deadline for operators in Manchester and areas in particular that feature in tranche 1 of the franchising scheme, is 46 days earlier than 19 January as the transition arrangements increased the notice period for changes and cancellations from 70 to 112 days! Get those crystal balls out lads.

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  21. More National Express Service Cuts

    The latest services to be cut that I am aware of are :-

    707 Birmingham to Heathrow

    737 Stansted to Oxford

    There seems to be no mention of the large number of services being cut on the National Express Web site. The cuts take place from 01-01-22

    Dozens of other service cuts have previously been registered so there may be a lot of disappointed Christmas travellers

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  22. The very valid point of congestion has been made earlier. Car drivers will not switch to buses as long as the published timetable cannot be maintained. While much of the congestion is caused by an excess of cars, lorries making deliveries in banned hours can impact seriously on schedules. The local authority can also delay buses by thoughtless traffic management. A local journey in St. Albans City centre to the rail station, a distance of two thirds of a mile involves no fewer than eight sets of traffic lights most of which are not needed.
    On the topic of taxis for shool use, many are used by children who have no acceptable bus service. Quite a number are, however, used to carry unruly children who otherwise would cause serious disruption on local buses. Thes taxis are funded out of the council transport budget meaning less money being available to support bus services for the majority. Taxis for this latter group should be funded by their parents and not by the council tax payer. If the parents found themselves out of pocket they would soon discipline their offspring.

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  23. Taxis are used by councils where there is no public bus service. They are not used for unruly children, The basic National rule is a council has to provide free school transport if the journey is more than a mile for primary school children or 3 miles if a secondary school. Under those distances there is no requirement to provide transport. Different rules apply for children with disabilities
    (Note the above applies to schools within the catchment area. If parents choose to send their child to a school out of the catchment area the above does not apply

    It would in my view be more sensible o change the system as the travel is free if the journey is over the distances above. It would be more sensible if only the differences in fare was reimbursed, You can under the current situation get daft situations where one child get free travel and another does not yet the fares are exactly the same

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    1. Bob, The legislation surrounding free home to school transport says 2 miles and over for primary school children up to 8 years old and 3 miles for children age 8 years and older. Many Councils set their own limits. In my area it is 2 miles for primary and 3 miles for secondary pupils.

      On the subject of taxis, the biggest growth over the past few decades has been their use to provide transport for special and assisted needs pupils. These pupils are often unable to travel with other pupils and require an escort.

      Interesting that Dorset only sees buses as being required between 0700 and 1900. In this deep rural area, the Council proposed similar pre Covid to save money. Locally, our operators have been taking the opportunity to remove evening journeys other than on routes serving the hospital and between the largest towns. Once the majority of shops close at 1700, passenger leadings fall off the cliff. Many pre Covid activities have yet to resume.

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  24. The issue I suspect is that with the present state of anarchy (in all parties) any legislative change is deemed too risky. So we’ve got rule by informal dicktat, with no scrutiny whatsoever. Say one thing and do another. It seems to suit us, anyway. We can all pretty well do as we please. We have plenty of experience. For how long, is anyone’s guess.

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  25. Cutting services is just driving more passengers away. Another issue if you are in the cery luck position of have more thn one bus compny provising a service is tickets are no interchangable so you either have to wait for the companies nexct bus which may be and hour later or pay the fare again

    Bus companies in my view have little concept of customer service mimd you LTA’s are no better. Wgat people want is frequebt sercvice and convienence and they get neither of them. People will pay for good servicce and concience but will not py for poor service

    A good example of where a business has been created from convienience is Just Eay. It has been created from nothing . People use it because it is convient

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  26. Wow. Not the article, no surprise to many of us, no doubt, but the link…
    Wirst Essex could buy newer Go-NW buses off Ebay, for the price of a family hatchback, to modernise the fleet. Problem: they’ve no money.
    Solved: They could flog the X30 fleet on Ebay to help pay for it (assuming they can find any buyers). Memo to the new MD, looking for a bright idea…

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  27. Re. National Express ‘cuts’. I understand all that is being deregistered are the services that were registered as local bus services during Covid and the services will continue to operate as normally as express routes.

    You can still book a journey on route 707 into February according to their website.

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  28. That does not appear to be the case. Interlink Herts show the most recent two services as being cut. If what you say were the case it would have been registered as a service alteration and not a cancellation. I agree there is nothing on the NatEX web site about the cuts

    The routes being cut as well are not local routes but Nat Ex routes.

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  29. Bob . . . several National Express routes are registered on sections where local journeys (under 15 miles) are possible, so (for example) Hemel Hempstead – Luton Airport, being 12.4 miles, is registered . . . this allows for BSOG to be claimed . . . it might be a small amount, but “every penny counts”. Technically, if the registration is cancelled, then it is the local service within Hertfordshire that is cancelled, not an service alteration; the timetable will still be unchanged. A registration, if cancelled, attracts no fee . . . a registration, if amended, attracts a fee.
    {It is worth noting that a registered service has to follow a specific route and that any timetable change needs 72 days’ notice. A local fare can still be offered on a route that isn’t “registered”. What this revision does is permit the timetable and route to be varied at short notice}.
    So . . . Intalink (correct spelling) have correctly stated that the registration is “cancelled”. I agree that it might be better if a note stating that the route still operates were appended to the note on the Intalink website, but Dan is correct in what he says.

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  30. That does not seem to be the case as they have been deregistered in every traffic area the route runs though and surely BSOG an is only for stage carriage service which NatEx are not

    The section you mention i in the East of England Traffic area hence that notice. There is also a cancellation for London and the South East Traffic Area

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  31. Oh dear . . . I only registered bus services from 1986 onwards, so I do have a little knowledge!!

    National Express, several years ago, and on most services, registered every bit of a service that they could so they could claim for BSOG monies. Any service that offers a local journey MUST be registered, provided that a passenger MAY travel for a journey less than 15 miles.
    To give you another example . . . Route 758 (Hemel Hempstead-London) is registered within Hemel Hempstead as far as Breakspeare Way. The next section to Brent Cross is more than 15 miles between stops, therefore that section of route is not registered. From Brent Cross to Victoria is within London, so has a London Service Permit, issued by TfL, in lieu of a registration.
    Route 757 (Luton-London) has a stop on most journeys at Bricket Wood, which breaks up the over-15 mile section, and allows for that service to be registered fully from Luton to Brent Cross, from which another LSP takes over.

    For the full story . . . https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/705081/PSV353A_local_service_registrations_-_England__except_London__and_Wales.pdf.

    National Express have obviously decided that they no longer wish to register services where possible, as I noted in my previous post. Local journeys will therefore no longer be possible.

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    1. This must be why the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxfordshire started carrying local passengers with in Oxford and London on the now defunct X90,I think that it was still the 190 when it started carrying local passengers, and the Oxford Tube.Of course the Oxford Tube can be used as a localish journey between Oxford and Lewknor too, handy for walking on the Ridgeway.The only National Express I’ve done not between big towns and cities is Newcastle to Bryness a hamlet in Northumberland but it, I’m told,no longer runs and the only way to get there now is by a bus company called Hoggs on the Newcastle to Jedburgh run . Likewise when National Express get to Cornwall they seem to run as a local service bus as this happened to me when I went overnight(Saturday night/Sunday morning) from London to Truro after Plymouth we stopped at normal bus stops which added to an already slow trip although I wasn’t in a rush and it was unusual in providing an early morning service on a Sunday for local people when the regular buses might not start until 10hr.if at all.

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  32. In order to increase passenger numbers you need to be able to advertise a regular reliable service. Sadly the lack of drivers means that in my area the major operators – First Essex, Go-Ahead Hedingham and Stephensons – are all failing to maintain even their curtailed timetables. Since you can’t magic up hundreds of drivers overnight, I have no idea how they are going to put this right. RF is probably very relieved that he is now retired and no longer has the worry of all this.

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    1. I’ve been concerned for some time that Essex operators have simply registered too much for the available resources they have available in our low margin, low demand environment. Covid has taken a bad situation and made it critical, if not life-threatening.
      In a competitive environment it may be good business, as long as we ignore the passengers.
      There simply has to be substantial network cuts. The choice is between careful planning to mitigate the worse effects, and panic. No odds on which one will prevail.

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