Our buses could be better in public hands
Buses are really important. Many of us rely on them to get to work, go shopping or meet family and friends. Private bus companies took over running our buses in the 1980s. Since then, bus fares have gone up, services have got worse and fewer people are taking the bus outside London. Privatisation and deregulation (lack of control over services) have made things worse.
Research shows that public ownership of buses would save us £506 million a year that could be reinvested in better services and lower fares. In some cities (and in other countries) buses are already run for people not profit so we know it can be done.
Right now the government is trying to ban local councils from setting up their own public bus companies - sign the petition for buses for people not profit.
In the words of our supporter, Marc Edwards, "The proposal to ban local authorities from running bus companies flies in the face of reason. Public transport of all kinds reduces pollution, cuts down traffic congestion and provides affordable transport for all who either cannot afford to finance car ownership or who who have made the forward-thinking ... decision to choose other transport options than the car. "
The five largest private bus companies - Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach - carry 70% of all passengers. Councils pay bus companies to provide ‘socially necessary’ services that don’t make a profit. In London, buses are run by private companies but the network is regulated by Transport for London which can make sure that routes and fares work for passengers. That's why people outside London have been hit hardest by privatisation.
- Since the 1980s, bus journeys outside London have halved - falling from around 2 billion to 1 billion a year
- Fares in England (outside of London) have increased by 35% above inflation since 1995
- Over the 10 years to 2013, £2.8 billion was handed to shareholders instead of being reinvested in better buses (an average of £277 million a year).
- 40% of bus company revenue is public money from local authorities and national government
- 8.5% of workers normally commute to work by bus - yet 19% of workers have turned down a job due to poor quality bus services.
Research suggests that the bus market isn't working as it was supposed to:
- Transport for Quality of Life looked at the 16 essential attributes of a world-class bus system (such as a comprehensive network, coordinated timetables and simple area-wide fares) and finds that deregulation is a major obstacle to achieving 13 of them.
- The Competition Commission says there is a lack of competition in the bus market, which means lower quality services and higher fares. Only 1% of bus services face head-to-head competition.
- The House of Commons Transport Committee is ‘not convinced’ that ‘widespread and sustained head-to-head competition is realistic or desirable.’
- The Institute For Public Policy's report ‘Greasing the Wheels’ concluded that bus deregulation outside London has been a failure.
- The Public Policy Institute for Wales studied the impact of privatisation on Welsh bus services and found that 'The overall impact of bus deregulation has been negative. Fares have increased whilst operator costs have gone down.'
Buses for people not profit
Privatisation means we waste money on shareholder dividends and fragmentation. Public ownership of buses throughout the UK (excluding London) would save us £506 million a year. To achieve this, the law would need to be changed to allow local authorities to set up their own bus companies, and allow existing municipal bus companies to bid for contracts.
There are 12 publicly owned municipal bus companies already in operation in Great Britain, running buses for people not profit. The largest of these is Lothian Buses, which is owned directly by local government and operates 70 routes in Edinburgh and the surrounding area. In 2014, more passengers than ever travelled on Lothian Buses. Levels of customer satisfaction are the highest in the industry, and Lothian recently returned £5.5 million profit to the public purse.
Reading Buses is another municipally owned bus services which can invest an additional £3 million a year in the bus network (around 12-15% of its annual turnover) because it doesn't pay out dividends to private shareholders. The extra money means better quality buses, and is one reason why more people take the bus in Reading.
“Commercial bus companies have to take a view on what percentage profit they need to make in order to run a bus service. This can have unfortunate consequences on the provision of evening and Sunday services...Reading Borough Council and Reading Buses have come to a shared view that most bus routes in the town should be in operation from around 6am to 11pm each day (later starts on Sundays) to give a comprehensive service to residents.”
(Interview with Transport for Quality of Life)
Buses in Northern Ireland are provided by Translink, a public company that operates rail, bus and metro services across the region.
In German and Austrian cities, public (municipal) ownership is the norm. In Germany 88% of all trips on local public transport (bus, tram and train) are provided by publicly-owned operators. Evidence from Vienna shows that services are high quality and cost-efficient, with investment going into expanding the network.
What can you do?
Sign the petition for buses for people not profit and against the government's ban on new public companies. Share this page to spread the word.
Stop the government ban on new public bus companies
Last signature: Phyllida, Dorchester, 2 min 59 sec ago
Want better buses? Public ownership of buses would save us £506 million a year - money that could be reinvested in more services and lower fares. Research shows that bus privatisation is wasteful because it involves fragmentation and profit-taking.
But now the government wants to ban councils in England from setting up bus companies to run their own services. 12 local authorities already provide excellent bus services across the UK. If we want better buses everywhere, new local authority not-for-dividend bus companies must be allowed as an alternative to private providers.
We call on Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and the Department for Transport to drop Clause 21 from the Bus Services Bill and allow all local councils to run buses.
Fri 20 Jan 2017. Source: www.heraldscotland.com
Fri 13 Jan 2017. Source: www.newsguardian.co.uk
Tue 10 Jan 2017.
Fri 25 Nov 2016. Source: www.localgov.co.uk
Thu 24 Nov 2016.
Public ownership of buses would save us £506 million.* Every year.
Stopping shareholder profits means:
- more investment.
- more services
- better services.
*and that's not including London.
Ask your councillor to support We Own It's campaign to stop the ban on new publicly owned bus companies.