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Buses - what they cost and their future direction in the SW and in Wiltshire

Trowbridge and Melksham bus at Chippenham StationSome interesting figures from a bus operator - the Go-Ahead group - telling us where their income comes from. This is NOT a company that serves Melksham (their nearest company to us is Wilts and Dorset, who operate to Devizes from Salisbury). Annual income relating to bus operations:
1.80 billion in fares
0.54 billion from local authorities in support of noncommercial services
0.78 billion in fees for senior bus pass users (who don't pay when they travel)
0.31 billion in Bus Service Operator's Grant (BSOG).

BSOG is paid for by central government and has been subject to review since 2004, renewed on an annual basis. This year it's unchanged, next year it will be cut by 10% to 20% and it will stay at that level for a further three years. Perversely, the cut is better news than might have been expected - it's a level of cut than many had feared, and there's now a 4 year certainty. The main purpose of BSOG is to help keep the fares of those of us who pay for our tickets down to a sensible level.

Local authorities are being squeezed heavily, and are having to cut support for noncommercial services. And those are particularly rural ones. So Go-Ahead's urban services in Oxford and Brighton aren't effected. On the other hand, there are some West Sussex journeys which are said to be subsidised by up to 12 pounds per passenger journey.

In the South West, Somerset Council is coming under especially fierce criticism for removing subidy from all evening and Sunday services. A meeting requested by TravelWatch members, to make suggestions to the council chief as to how they could make substantial savings by making quite small adjustments to daytime services, lasted "less than a minute". "We have decided that removing all subsidy from Sunday and evening services means we are being equally fair to everyone" they said. That might be the case, but they are not making best use of the remaining money being spent on buses - that's taxpayer's money - as they continue to issue less that optimal specs for some services, and slash others on which a few pence so a lot of good.


Public Transport across WiltshireWiltshire are not exempt from having to cut their budget, but are transferring some of the extra monies raised by increasing parking charges into the bus budgets. There will (and should) be some service adjustments too - especially bearing in mind that it's many years since some things were looked at, and people's flows change. At TravelWatch SouthWest (meeting, Saturday 5th March 2011) we heard from a number of bus operators, and the example of the Redhill area was quoted as a positive example of this strategy. A handful of places previously served were no longer served ("but buses there had become very lightly loaded") and some other service adjustments resulted in slightly less services - but also more efficient use of the bus fleet, so the reduction (removal?) of subsidy.

Torbay council were telling us of some of their plans and actions - and included a comment about requests from town centre businesses to pedestrianise, and move buses out of the centre. But they won't be doing this - siting the 3.5 million boardings per year at town centre stops, and the effect of the town centre businesses of moving the loading / unloading of people a significant distance away. Torbay council were also telling us of a subsidy per journey of just 0.64 per journey in their area (and that can be kept lower than most because they don't have the same sort of rural hinterland) and how they use "section 106" funding from developers to seed public transport in areas just being (re)built.

There is no suggestion (to my knowledge) that buses be banned from the centre of any Wiltshire towns. I have heard suggestions from just one county councilor that all bus subsidies, apart from those legally required to pay for travel by children to school who are over 3 miles from their school and cannot attend a closer school. To follow through with those suggestions would - in my view - allow the advocates to make a strong political point, but at the expense of effecting town centre businesses (the bus user into a town centre spends more on average than the car driver!). It would also mean more traffic with mums driving kids to school, more traffic from those who can make a choice, and a burden on social services and the voluntary sector as they struggled to provide for the unable-to-drive cut off from public transport in their homes. And a very real and hurtful loss of life quality - an isolation - for that group too.

Two excellent questions from the audience - firstly, "Companies in other sectors have a research and development budget which they use to invest into new areas / technologies in the anticipation of future profit. So why do bus companies need seeding with funds at the start of a new service? Why don't they invest to gain later?" Second, "why should it be that people who choose to live in locations which are naturally more expensive to serve by public transport should expect to be more heavily subsidized than those who choose to live in easier to serve areas?"

I'm very impressed by some of what's happening in Wiltshire on the travel and transport agenda. And that's something that's new in the last couple of years. So whilst I have concerns (who wouldn't?) about a future in which the cloth of bus support is being trimmed, I'm cautiously hopeful. I'm made the more hopeful by a number of factors. I don't see a dogma of any one mode of travel being good to the unnatural exclusion of another. I see a willingness to take unpopular but necessary decisions. I see a willingness to make controlled changes and to think through the effect of those changes, rather than to make too many short term "distress" changes that are short term, knee-jerk reactions. I see innovative solutions. And I see some pretty arcane / weird / inefficient things around today, which have been there quite a while, and offer scope for efficiency improvements.


Last autumn I looked forward - in a purely personal post - two generations of transport provision - [here]. There's no way that can (or should) be done in one step. But it's good to see Wiltshire, and some others too, starting to plan things based on longer term strategy rather than short term tactics, and to be considering the metrics of getting around if the price of a litre of petrol goes up further from the £1.35 it is today (I saw £1.40 yesterday). Consider - the AA tells us the average in Feb 2009 was £0.90, in February 2010 was £1.12 and in February 2011 was £1.28. At this rate ...
(written 2011-03-06, updated 2011-03-07)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z511 - Public Transport - Road
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4690] Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment - (2016-05-30)
  [4683] Saudi Arabia or Weymouth? - (2016-05-22)
  [4670] The end, or the start? - (2016-04-05)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4664] Mallory Place bus stop - services to Bath - (2016-03-25)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [4654] Getting to the Royal United Hospital - the Hopper and the alternatives - (2016-02-24)
  [4648] Why is bus funding a much hotter topic than a new set of traffic lights? - (2016-02-16)
  [4639] Working out the costs of running a bus service through the day - (2016-02-06)
  [4636] Rail user groups worried about what is happening on the buses - (2016-01-31)
  [4631] What would the Wiltshire Council bus cuts mean for Melksham? - (2016-01-25)
  [4629] Making travel time useful time on public transport - (2016-01-22)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)
  [4615] Questions for First (West of England) - (2016-01-05)
  [4592] A comparison of the public transport alternatives to the Royal United Hospital, Bath - from Melksham. - (2015-12-06)
  [4547] RUH Hopper - experience and thoughts forward - (2015-10-20)
  [4546] Is the RUH hopper a limited, duplicate service running unnecessarily and at high cost? - (2015-10-18)
  [4500] The TransWilts Community Intergrated Transport Corridor - (2015-05-29)
  [4425] A Welsh valley - what the transport looks like in 2015 - (2015-02-14)
  [4290] National Express replaced by train and by Megabus from Chippenham to London - (2014-07-16)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4263] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge, public transport over Easter (2014) - (2014-04-12)
  [4257] Over a pound a kilometre - my bus in Weston-super-mare - (2014-04-06)
  [4247] You wait a long time - then buses come in threes. It's timetabled that way! - (2014-03-09)
  [4240] Melksham Rail Link - (2014-01-27)
  [4228] Mallory Place, The Spa, Wellington Drive, Melksham - a Christmas present for you - (2013-12-26)
  [4194] TransWilts Link - meeting notes from 19th October - (2013-10-20)
  [4192] A positive progress behind the scenes - (2013-10-14)
  [4191] Getting people to and from Melksham Station - not 20 but 700 times a day - (2013-10-12)
  [4190] A radical proposal - a cheap and effective way to provide home to city commuter transport - (2013-10-11)
  [4186] Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point? - (2013-10-06)
  [4181] Grumbling about trains? Buses can be far worse! - (2013-09-29)
  [4179] Changing transport and destinations - looking forward to a good future - (2013-09-19)
  [4171] Mapping road accidents in Melksham and elsewhere too - (2013-09-12)
  [4152] Why are bus fares so high? - (2013-08-18)
  [4150] Melksham Regular Public Transport Map - as at August 2013 - (2013-08-09)
  [4149] Bus changes to Bath - good idea, but I despair at information available - (2013-08-08)
  [4143] Bus times - Melksham to Bath from 28th July 2013 - (2013-07-25)
  [4124] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge bus changes next month - (2013-06-26)
  [4123] New timetables from 28th July - bus routes 271 and 272 - (2013-06-24)
  [4113] Wiltshire and Melksham Transport - what is going on? - (2013-06-09)
  [4111] Zigzag bus - forward for the future, or decaying service? - (2013-06-09)
  [4108] The painful cost of local travel to Melksham - (2013-06-01)
  [4032] Easier public transport from Melksham to Bristol Airport - (2013-03-06)
  [4023] Melksham to Chippenham (Station) bus services - times and routes - (2013-03-01)
  [4022] A request for all of Melksham transport groups to work integrated - (2013-03-01)
  [3951] Christmas Bus Schedule for Melksham - First Bus - (2012-12-14)
  [3938] A long overdue meeting - a steeping stone towards coordinate transport user inputs - (2012-12-02)
  [3937] Agenda for Wiltshire Link Travel groups meeting, Saturday 1st December 2012 - (2012-11-27)
  [3929] Melksham Bus Issues - to be raised at First Bus Customer Panel - (2012-11-21)
  [3904] Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26)
  [3893] Public Transport across Wiltshire - a new map - (2012-10-13)
  [3879] Mixed mode travel - Information systems - (2012-10-03)
  [3877] Public Transport Services - from and to Melksham - (2012-10-01)
  [3866] Celebrate! Buses from Meksham to Bath - (2012-09-18)
  [3850] Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25)
  [3849] New bus times - Melksham to Bath - (2012-08-25)
  [3699] Bristol 50? Bristol 25? - (2012-04-17)
  [3631] Getting around Dublin by public transport - some observations - (2012-03-01)
  [3580] Melksham Area - buses, trains, cycles, and roads. Meeting, 17.1.2012 - (2012-01-15)
  [3579] Transport in Cambridgeshire - seen by an outside observer. What can Wiltshire learn? - (2012-01-15)
  [3564] I wish I was not a special case - (2011-12-29)
  [3523] When competition is not a good idea - Melksham Bus Absurdity - (2011-11-16)
  [3504] Coaches from Trowbridge and Melksham to London - (2011-11-01)
  [3487] Public transport - road and rail - (2011-10-19)
  [3486] How important is public transport to people in the Melksham area? - (2011-10-19)
  [3471] Vintage Bus Running Day in Warminster. An example of good bus practise. - (2011-10-09)
  [3404] Buses on the Cambridge Guided Busway - (2011-08-24)
  [3301] Using public transport - USA style - (2011-05-25)
  [3290] Changes (and no changes) at Melksham bus stops - (2011-05-15)
  [3126] Car Parking in Melksham - thoughts on the proposed scheme, and wider thoughts too - (2011-01-09)
  [2983] Strong arm tactics in the bus industry? Poor result for the customer! - (2010-10-03)
  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
  [2958] What do these road markings mean? Could Confusion Kill? - (2010-09-17)
  [2933] Bath - Melksham - Devizes buses from September - (2010-08-23)
  [2919] London to Calne, Corsham, Melksham, Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham by public Transport - (2010-08-13)
  [2903] Bath to Devizes bus via Melksham - changing again in September - (2010-08-04)
  [2857] Park and Ride at Batheaston - will it solve Wiltshires Ills? - (2010-07-06)
  [2791] Bath to Melksham buses - times - (2010-06-03)
  [2789] Melksham to London (Heathrow, and Central London) - (2010-06-02)
  [2771] Melksham to Calne by public transport - (2010-05-20)
  [2672] Dear Planners, please provide viable alternatives - (2010-03-11)
  [2662] Is Melksham public transport actually used? - (2010-03-05)
  [2533] Five guests, three groups, one car - (2009-12-11)
  [2522] Integrated public Transport - what could be done for Melksham - (2009-12-01)
  [2515] Why we have two buses an hour - but not a half hourly service - (2009-11-28)
  [2431] Moving busstop! - (2009-09-30)
  [2372] Public Transport from (and to) Melksham on Sundays - (2009-08-23)
  [2328] Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08)
  [2268] Westbury Bypass Refused - looking forward - (2009-07-04)
  [2083] Do you support a decent train service? Please sign up! - (2009-03-15)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [1777] The Rise and Rise of First Bus Fares - (2008-08-29)
  [1723] Bath - Melksham - Devizes. Bus route changes, new timetable - (2008-07-26)
  [1668] Talk on TransWilts train service to Green Party - (2008-06-07)
  [1567] Melksham - Swindon. Train v Bus v Car - (2008-03-07)
  [1560] HST Power Car TravelWatch SouthWest - (2008-03-01)
  [1511] Buses from Well House Manor, Melksham, to Bath - (2008-01-18)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1315] Two years of campaigning for a train service - (2007-08-22)
  [1254] Comparing bus stops - (2007-07-01)
  [1125] Train service - petititon reply - (2007-03-31)
  [1085] Lawrence Webb's Melksham Taxi service - (2007-02-18)
  [818] Heard, yes. Considered, no. The case for the train. - (2006-07-30)
  [764] Journey planning - Xephos v Transport Direct - (2006-06-16)
  [474] Vintage Bus Day - (2005-10-23)
  [459] Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-09)
  [187] a popular bus number - (2005-01-23)
  [119] PHP course. Come by train. - (2004-11-15)

Z408 - TravelWatch SouthWest
  [4424] Looking Forward - TransWilts Community Rail Partnership and TransWilts CIC - (2015-02-12)
  [4397] TransWilts / Press and Publicity report for AGM / 30th January 2015 - (2015-01-17)
  [4188] Extended Weekend - but not a quiet one! - (2013-10-07)
  [4185] TransWilts Trains - running a successful campaign talk - (2013-10-05)
  [4173] Train and Rail Travel - who runs it and where do I ask questions? - (2013-09-13)
  [4040] Report on the last year - Melksham Railway Developement Group for Melksham Without Parish Council - (2013-03-11)
  [3882] Community Transport - Pewsey, Taunton, and the whole picture too - (2012-10-06)
  [3677] Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31)
  [3221] How long is a speech? - (2011-03-29)
  [2954] Railway meetings, trips and meetups this autumn - (2010-09-12)
  [2748] Monitoring the success and traffic of your web site - (2010-05-01)
  [2666] Random thoughts on Melksham Town Planning and development - (2010-03-08)
  [2664] Oliver Cromwell at Bristol Temple Meads - (2010-03-06)
  [2438] Listening to The Minister - (2009-10-05)
  [1966] Background to the TransWilts Train Fiasco - (2008-12-29)


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