Public transport – where is the ‘service’?

This is my very first blog ever, but I’ve been pushed onto my virtual soapbox by an insidious movement by a certain bus operator that has a near-monopoly on public transport in the region to cut all the commuter services to and from my village into Bristol, and to do so without consultation and with minimal publicity (the notice about withdrawal of these services was hidden away in a flyer and on their website, buried deep among a long list of (mostly minor) ‘service changes’).

And if, despite the bus company’s best efforts, passengers do actually get to hear that these services are to be axed, does the company respond to letters and emails of protest or requests for an explanation of the reasoning behind the decision? It’s now 14 days since I first contacted them, and I am still waiting … and the experience of my fellow passengers seems to be depressingly similar.

Am I being cynical, or is there a deliberate strategy of non-communication here? Why expend time and effort answering correspondence about a service you don’t wish to continue to provide, especially when you deduce that most users will still continue to swell your coffers as they are forced to use the more inconvenient alternatives (at the same cost, or greater) also provided by yourselves? (The only other possibility being to abandon public transport (and any green credentials) to join the miserable shuffle nose-to-tail down the ‘single occupancy’ lane into Bristol.)

This failure to provide effective public transport services that meet local demand is a situation that has been created by government policy, and one in which the local councils collude by awarding contracts to the large, national operators on the basis of low costs rather than the guarantee of service to local taxpayers.

In the meantime, all I can say is: bring on an Integrated Transport Authority for the Greater Bristol Area operating under a Quality Contract that would allow the authority, rather than a self serving private contractor, to determine what services are to be run, on which routes and how often.

Jo Morton
Production Editor, The Policy Press – while I can still get in to do the job(!)

Traffic jam: Ten years of ‘sustainable’ transport in the UK – A timely analysis of the UK government’s sustainable transport policy 10 years after the publication of A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone.

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