I must thank my friends at North West Bus blog for alerting me via Twitter to this news. Well I say news but really it's not the most earth shattering revelations.
According to Government figures local bus journeys in England have fallen by 27 million in the year to March 2015. That sounds a lot, but actually only accounts for 0.6% of total journeys made, which still stands at 4.56 billion. Take a second to take that figure in - 4.65 billion local bus journeys taken a year. Unfortunately there don't appear to be any stats on how many car journeys a year are made as that would have been an interesting comparison. The stats also show total bus mileage dropped by 0.6%, which I initially thought was the number of services operated, but having re-read the article now think may mean the total mileeage travelled by passengers, as it says that is mainy due to a 10% decrease in the distance travelled on local authority subsidsed services outside London, which probably is due to the ever decreasing number of services subsidised anyway!
Another factor will be that fares rose by an average of 3.3% which when you consider the low price of diesel and the national inflation rate of 0.9% is nothing short of pure greed by the operators, regardless of their lame excuses about how they buy fuel. Certainly wages haven't riisen by 3.3% either. It will be interesting to see what the fares rises are this year but let me give you a reason why operators should consider reducing fares not increasing them.
Earlier in the year First reduced the single fare on their 99 between Kessingland and Lowestoft to £1. Much to everyone's surprise, not least First themselves, Anglian did not respond in kind, choosing instead to double the number of their buses in the area but charging more than double the fare. First initially intended the £1 fare to be for a limited period but something extraordinary has happened - they are making more money charging £1 than they did charging £2.40 so the £1 is staying. I have noticed 99's with more and more people on them and as for Anglian? Well in October the frequency in Kessingland will be halved from 6 to 3 buses an hour, and as I understand it in November will be further reduced to 2 buses an hour, meaning for the first time there will be more 99's than 61's in Kessingland. I do hope First don't get greedy again and put the fares back up. So what I and many others have been saying for years, that you can actually make more charging lower fares has been proved correct and I look forward to First trying that strategy on a route that does not have competition on it to further test the theory. Give people a reason to leave cars at home and money talks these days. Loudly.
But back to the article, and many are saying that the way buses are financed needs to change. Funny - I said that a couple of weeks ago and have my own ideas and plans as to how that can happen. The forthcoing Bus Bill is all well and good, but it is only going to give some local authorities the option to take all bus services "in house", and as far as I can see will only benefit the big towns and cities, not rural areas. I have already been told there is no new money available, which defeats the object of the exercise, as it's more money that is sorely needed. Clearly this cannot come from the public purse so other means have to be discovered and explored.
You can read the full article by clicking here.
We are all still waiting for the details of the November cuts by Anglian, who are really dragging their heels in letting their passengers know if they will still have a service or not. It is all very unimpressive, especially taking into account how quickly Konect released full details of their cuts. As soon as Anglian do say something I'll let you know.