Fast forward over a quarter of a century and very little has changed (excpet Maidstone doesn't have the best buses on P&R anymore!). Let us look at our region. If you drive to a big car park and catch the bus you will find one of these waiting for you. Pic is by Stephen Hughes, whose Flickr page you can access here.
|First Essex Volvo B7rle 69512 at Chelmer Valley P&R pic by Stephen Hughes|
|Arriva 4072 E200 SK15 GHS pic by Stephen Hughes|
|First Essex 33190 in Colchester late 2013|
|69429 in 2011 on Ipswich P&R pic by GNE 4993|
|First Ipswich 48065 at Aldeburgh in May 2007 - a real heap of a bus! pic by parkandride2007|
It goes on. Oxford City Council have announced plans to have a fleet of double deck electric buses operating P&R services by the end of 2016 (source Bus & Coach buyer). Why P&R? Are car drivers more valuable and worth investing in above regular passangers?
The answer is obvious. Councils tender for P&R. As far as I know there is not a single commercially operated P&R in the country so the Councils dictate the vehicles they want operating and if the companies want the contract they have to comply. There is no such regulation with regular bus services, except DDA of course, so companies are still free to subject their customers to any rattlebucket they want.
This is why I would support the London style of re-regulation being adopted nationwide. If councils take control of all routes, profit making AND loss making, then they can ensure quality vehicles are used on all routes. Currently they only sponsor loss making routes, and are almost duty bound to accept the cheapest tender, which obviously isn't going to promise new or better vehicles. DDA has forced a lot of companies to upgrade their vehicles, but in this part of the world compared to others there are far too many old and clearly past it vehicles around. It is ironic that the last step entrance vehicles are better than the older low floor buses that are coming out of London to replace them.
The companies will no doubt bleat about costs of new vehicles etc, but they have had it easy for too long. It is time the regular bus passenger was put on an even keel with the pandered car driver on P&R services.
Oh while I'm at it another common complaint you will hear from the companies is that they don't get enough return for each bus pass used. This is because they do not see it from the correct angle. bus passes allow the elderly and disabled to make far more journeys than they otherwise would do. I was chatting to a lady in Beccles the other day who told me she goes out most days a week just riding around on buses all over the place. GOOD FOR HER!! The companies, although not getting the full fare she would have paid, are still getting money they would not have got because she couldn't have afforded to go out in the first place. This is the point they are missing. Better to get something than nothing, and if bus passes suddenly disappeared their revenue would drop dramatically as those passengers would restriict their journeys to essentials, buses would be empty again, and the companies would still complain about it! Better still charge £20 a year for the passes, and make it LAW that the funds raised went to sponsoring more bus services, whch would get more people out and spending money, hence encouraging economical growth, as well as creating more driving jobs. Simples
Please note that this week's Round Up will be published on Saturday as I have a rather special post coming on Sunday, the first of a potential 5 I hope.