Private profit is ruining public transport
26th August 2014
According to the news this morning, a 'centre-left' think tank has apparently called for more competition in public transport in response to the news that outside of London, fewer of us than ever are using buses because of rising prices.
The cost of bus fares does make them an unattractive option; so does the infrequency of services.
But what sort of 'left' think tank sees the solution in increased competition? Competing companies try to under-cut each other when biding for routes by attacking conditions of their workers and, from the quality of some buses I've travelled on recently, saving on cleaning and perhaps even maintenance.
Is this better for the passenger? No. There have to be concerns about safety when firms compete to undercut one another to secure contracts. Are they making savings on maintenance, cleaning, over -working drivers? The bus on one leg of my journey to and from work didn't seem to get cleaned for about a fortnight, judging by the mud, twigs and leaves littering the floor.
I've found that far from reducing prices, competition has just massively increased the cost of my daily travel. I have to catch two buses and one firm used to provide both services, making it possible to buy a single ticket for the whole journey. But they lost the contract with the Council for one of them. Neither firm now accepts each other's tickets, resulting in a near doubling of the price I have to pay to get to work and back.
I live in a Labour council under a Welsh Labour Government. Both pay lip-service to the idea of an integrated transport policy to provide a better, more environmentally friendly service to the public. Yet both have slashed subsidies for buses as they've passed on Con-Dem cuts.
It's not more competition but planning that's needed for public transport. It has to be run as a public service not a profit opportunity for cowboy operators. Public transport could be efficient, cost-effective and reduce massively our impact on the environment but for that to happen it needs to be publicly owned and democratically controlled.
Socialist Party Wales Member, written on the bus to work.