Are big bus companies driving over smaller competitors?
We remember when the government deregulated the buses a couple of decades or so ago. It all seemed like a public transport nirvana waiting to happen. We’d all have our own private buses, fitted with jacuzzis and we’d be fed tiny cups of nectar from specially-trained bear cubs as we travelled from A to B. The fares? 5p per journey, maximum.
Well guess what – that’s NOT what happened, and what’s more, things are getting worse. The Competition Commission has been looking in local bus services and their provisional findings are that “in many local areas the largest bus operator faced little or no competition” leading to "passengers facing less frequency and, in some cases, higher fares”. Oh. Shit. That’s not good is it?
There are 1,245 bus companies in England, Scotland and Wales but 69% of services are run by the ‘big five’ - Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach. The Commission is suggesting that the OFT keeps a closer eye on mergers and acquisitions between bus operators in the future.
Jeremy Peat, who chaired the inquiry, said: "We believe that greater competition between operators is the best way to rectify the problems we have identified. Ensuring fair access to bus stations, tackling 'over bussing', opening up the tendering process, close scrutiny of bus mergers, and encouraging 'competition-friendly' partnerships will all help achieve this." They’re also in favour of more multi-operator ticketing, so that travellers aren’t restricted to the big companies when using services.
Come on then Bitterwalleteers – tell us what irks you most about YOUR bus services. Car drivers can feel free to shut up.