TransWilts CRP, CIC and Melksham RUG
Public and sustainable transport in Wiltshire

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When competition is not a good idea - Melksham Bus Absurdity

I'm usually all for businesses competing with each other in the market place. But where they're competing in certain industries - for example the travel industry to get people between two different market places - it doesn't always work in the customer's interest. And what a graphic illustration we have of that in Melksham at the moment.

There are two buses an hour on several routes which are described as "commercial" - those are routes which do not attract / require a direct subsidy from the public purse. But it's not half hourly - the buses run close together, sometimes even in convoy as they compete:




But they're not really competing on an open field. For the majority of passengers on these buses are seniors, with their fares paid by the taxpayer, and competition on price is zero. This distorts the market. This means that it's in the two company's interest to pick up as many people as they can, rather than to compete on price. So sometimes you'll even see one overtaking another as they compete to pick up the passengers. People who aren't paying themselves will simply get on the first bus to come - it's like a race.




Typically, people will use a public transport service and adjust their journeys to suit if it runs at least as frequently as the journey time. Otherwise, they'll only use it if a service happens to be scheduled when they want it. That's a very rough guideline indeed, but it means that on the Bath to Melksham bus service, which takes around 40 minutes, you'll gain significant extra traffic on the route as a whole by running a bus every 30 minutes rather than running a convoy of buses every hour.

The same thing applies on the bus from Chippenham, via Melksham, to Trowbridge and Frome which is pictured here in Melksham. The daily coach from London to Melksham which takes about 3 hours is another example of a service that people will only use if it happens to be schedule when they want to travel; the every-two-hours London to Chippenham coach is fine and people will wait for the next service, and the London to Chippenham train is (in theory) over provided as it runs every half hour. In practice, train loadings got so high when it was only hourly to Chippenham that another was added - which rather proves my "tipping point" theory.

So why don't the bus companies get together and run half an hour apart?
• because one company moving to a new time would disadvantage that company for a year or two while existing passengers slowly changed their habits, and new traffic was generated.
• because the companies risk legal issues if they work together - they could be accused of being a cartel
• because the Unitary Council says "it's a commercial service - we can do nothing" even though they are paying the fares of the majority of passengers!

If a service was starting from scratch, we wouldn't be here with buses "racing each other for passengers" and then leaving unacceptable gaps in service. Everyone agrees it could be so much better. But both companies have a vested interest in sitting pretty and not jumping until the other jumps. They're playing chicken. And it really needs someone to give all the players a proverbial kick up the a**e. At present, they've all got the hatches battened down, they're defending current territory, and wheeling out old arguments, and old letters with standard paragraphs whenever anyone writes to ask about this.

Now is the time for them to be brave. Public transport use is increasing, and people WANT to use the bus and train. With exactly the same number of vehicles, the passenger count could rocket - and from truly paying passengers as well as seniors. But perhaps the Unitary authority secretly does NOT want to boost passenger numbers as they fear having to pay much more out on the senior fares?
(written 2011-11-16, updated 2011-11-27)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z511 - Public Transport - Road
  [119] PHP course. Come by train. - (2004-11-15)
  [187] a popular bus number - (2005-01-23)
  [459] Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-09)
  [474] Vintage Bus Day - (2005-10-23)
  [764] Journey planning - Xephos v Transport Direct - (2006-06-16)
  [818] Heard, yes. Considered, no. The case for the train. - (2006-07-30)
  [1085] Lawrence Webb's Melksham Taxi service - (2007-02-18)
  [1125] Train service - petititon reply - (2007-03-31)
  [1254] Comparing bus stops - (2007-07-01)
  [1315] Two years of campaigning for a train service - (2007-08-22)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1511] Buses from Well House Manor, Melksham, to Bath - (2008-01-18)
  [1560] HST Power Car TravelWatch SouthWest - (2008-03-01)
  [1567] Melksham - Swindon. Train v Bus v Car - (2008-03-07)
  [1668] Talk on TransWilts train service to Green Party - (2008-06-07)
  [1723] Bath - Melksham - Devizes. Bus route changes, new timetable - (2008-07-26)
  [1777] The Rise and Rise of First Bus Fares - (2008-08-29)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [2083] Do you support a decent train service? Please sign up! - (2009-03-15)
  [2268] Westbury Bypass Refused - looking forward - (2009-07-04)
  [2328] Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08)
  [2372] Public Transport from (and to) Melksham on Sundays - (2009-08-23)
  [2431] Moving busstop! - (2009-09-30)
  [2515] Why we have two buses an hour - but not a half hourly service - (2009-11-28)
  [2522] Integrated public Transport - what could be done for Melksham - (2009-12-01)
  [2533] Five guests, three groups, one car - (2009-12-11)
  [2662] Is Melksham public transport actually used? - (2010-03-05)
  [2672] Dear Planners, please provide viable alternatives - (2010-03-11)
  [2771] Melksham to Calne by public transport - (2010-05-20)
  [2789] Melksham to London (Heathrow, and Central London) - (2010-06-02)
  [2791] Bath to Melksham buses - times - (2010-06-03)
  [2857] Park and Ride at Batheaston - will it solve Wiltshires Ills? - (2010-07-06)
  [2903] Bath to Devizes bus via Melksham - changing again in September - (2010-08-04)
  [2919] London to Calne, Corsham, Melksham, Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham by public Transport - (2010-08-13)
  [2933] Bath - Melksham - Devizes buses from September - (2010-08-23)
  [2958] What do these road markings mean? Could Confusion Kill? - (2010-09-17)
  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
  [2983] Strong arm tactics in the bus industry? Poor result for the customer! - (2010-10-03)
  [3126] Car Parking in Melksham - thoughts on the proposed scheme, and wider thoughts too - (2011-01-09)
  [3194] Buses - what they cost and their future direction in the SW and in Wiltshire - (2011-03-06)
  [3290] Changes (and no changes) at Melksham bus stops - (2011-05-15)
  [3301] Using public transport - USA style - (2011-05-25)
  [3404] Buses on the Cambridge Guided Busway - (2011-08-24)
  [3471] Vintage Bus Running Day in Warminster. An example of good bus practise. - (2011-10-09)
  [3486] How important is public transport to people in the Melksham area? - (2011-10-19)
  [3487] Public transport - road and rail - (2011-10-19)
  [3504] Coaches from Trowbridge and Melksham to London - (2011-11-01)
  [3564] I wish I was not a special case - (2011-12-29)
  [3579] Transport in Cambridgeshire - seen by an outside observer. What can Wiltshire learn? - (2012-01-15)
  [3580] Melksham Area - buses, trains, cycles, and roads. Meeting, 17.1.2012 - (2012-01-15)
  [3631] Getting around Dublin by public transport - some observations - (2012-03-01)
  [3699] Bristol 50? Bristol 25? - (2012-04-17)
  [3849] New bus times - Melksham to Bath - (2012-08-25)
  [3850] Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25)
  [3866] Celebrate! Buses from Meksham to Bath - (2012-09-18)
  [3877] Public Transport Services - from and to Melksham - (2012-10-01)
  [3879] Mixed mode travel - Information systems - (2012-10-03)
  [3893] Public Transport across Wiltshire - a new map - (2012-10-13)
  [3904] Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26)
  [3929] Melksham Bus Issues - to be raised at First Bus Customer Panel - (2012-11-21)
  [3937] Agenda for Wiltshire Link Travel groups meeting, Saturday 1st December 2012 - (2012-11-27)
  [3938] A long overdue meeting - a steeping stone towards coordinate transport user inputs - (2012-12-02)
  [3951] Christmas Bus Schedule for Melksham - First Bus - (2012-12-14)
  [4022] A request for all of Melksham transport groups to work integrated - (2013-03-01)
  [4023] Melksham to Chippenham (Station) bus services - times and routes - (2013-03-01)
  [4032] Easier public transport from Melksham to Bristol Airport - (2013-03-06)
  [4108] The painful cost of local travel to Melksham - (2013-06-01)
  [4111] Zigzag bus - forward for the future, or decaying service? - (2013-06-09)
  [4113] Wiltshire and Melksham Transport - what is going on? - (2013-06-09)
  [4123] New timetables from 28th July - bus routes 271 and 272 - (2013-06-24)
  [4124] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge bus changes next month - (2013-06-26)
  [4143] Bus times - Melksham to Bath from 28th July 2013 - (2013-07-25)
  [4149] Bus changes to Bath - good idea, but I despair at information available - (2013-08-08)
  [4150] Melksham Regular Public Transport Map - as at August 2013 - (2013-08-09)
  [4152] Why are bus fares so high? - (2013-08-18)
  [4171] Mapping road accidents in Melksham and elsewhere too - (2013-09-12)
  [4179] Changing transport and destinations - looking forward to a good future - (2013-09-19)
  [4181] Grumbling about trains? Buses can be far worse! - (2013-09-29)
  [4186] Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point? - (2013-10-06)
  [4190] A radical proposal - a cheap and effective way to provide home to city commuter transport - (2013-10-11)
  [4191] Getting people to and from Melksham Station - not 20 but 700 times a day - (2013-10-12)
  [4192] A positive progress behind the scenes - (2013-10-14)
  [4194] TransWilts Link - meeting notes from 19th October - (2013-10-20)
  [4228] Mallory Place, The Spa, Wellington Drive, Melksham - a Christmas present for you - (2013-12-26)
  [4240] Melksham Rail Link - (2014-01-27)
  [4247] You wait a long time - then buses come in threes. It's timetabled that way! - (2014-03-09)
  [4257] Over a pound a kilometre - my bus in Weston-super-mare - (2014-04-06)
  [4263] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge, public transport over Easter (2014) - (2014-04-12)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4290] National Express replaced by train and by Megabus from Chippenham to London - (2014-07-16)
  [4425] A Welsh valley - what the transport looks like in 2015 - (2015-02-14)
  [4500] The TransWilts Community Intergrated Transport Corridor - (2015-05-29)
  [4546] Is the RUH hopper a limited, duplicate service running unnecessarily and at high cost? - (2015-10-18)
  [4547] RUH Hopper - experience and thoughts forward - (2015-10-20)
  [4592] A comparison of the public transport alternatives to the Royal United Hospital, Bath - from Melksham. - (2015-12-06)
  [4615] Questions for First (West of England) - (2016-01-05)
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4629] Making travel time useful time on public transport - (2016-01-22)
  [4631] What would the Wiltshire Council bus cuts mean for Melksham? - (2016-01-25)
  [4636] Rail user groups worried about what is happening on the buses - (2016-01-31)
  [4639] Working out the costs of running a bus service through the day - (2016-02-06)
  [4648] Why is bus funding a much hotter topic than a new set of traffic lights? - (2016-02-16)
  [4654] Getting to the Royal United Hospital - the Hopper and the alternatives - (2016-02-24)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [4664] Mallory Place bus stop - services to Bath - (2016-03-25)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4670] The end, or the start? - (2016-04-05)
  [4683] Saudi Arabia or Weymouth? - (2016-05-22)
  [4690] Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment - (2016-05-30)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)


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Metaclasses (Python) and Metatables (Lua)
Some other Articles
Melksham - changing times, an opportunity for the future
Melksham has a Heart - Montage picture for sale
Melksham has a heart - come and see the pictures. Sunday, 11 to 3, Assembly Hall
Metaclasses (Python) and Metatables (Lua)
When competition is not a good idea - Melksham Bus Absurdity
Networking - North and West Wilts FSB Style
Emergency First Aid at Work (HSE) training in Melksham - places available for 19.1.2012
Quintessentially English - scenes from our Wiltshire town
Python - current versions and implementations (CPython, Jython, IronPython etc)
Melksham House / Melksham Campus - Seniors Input Sought
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