Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)



  Chairman: Good afternoon, gentlemen, you are most warmly welcome. I am afraid we do have one piece of housekeeping before we begin. Can we now declare, as members of the Committee, any relevant interests.

  Mr Stevenson: Member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Chairman: Member of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Trade Union.

  Mr Donohoe: Member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Miss McIntosh: Interests in Railtrack, Eurotunnel, First Group and the RAC.

  Helen Jackson: Member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.


  1. Gentlemen, you are most warmly welcome this afternoon. May I ask you first to identify yourselves for the record.
  (Mr Clayton) Steve Clayton, Managing Director, Arriva UK's Bus Business.
  (Mr Lockhead) Moir Lockhead, First Group.
  (Mr Cochrane) Keith Cochrane, Chief Executive, Stagecoach Group.

  2. The ground rules are fairly simple: if you agree, we would be grateful if you would not say so; if you disagree, then by all means try to catch my eye. Did any of you want to make an opening statement, or are you prepared to go straight to questions?
  (Mr Lockhead) We want to make a very brief opening statement if that would be acceptable. If I could do that on behalf of my two colleagues. First of all, Madam Chairman, we are fully behind the Government's Transport Plan. We believe that it offers the right strategy going forward for public transport in the UK; we believe that the targets for growth in bus patronage is achievable, and if complementary policies on traffic restraint are enacted, we are confident we can exceed those targets. You will be aware, Madam Chairman, that the UK bus operators are firmly behind the Government's Transport Act, which places quality partnerships at the forefront of bus policy. We are making good progress with many of our local authority partners to develop quality partnerships. What is important is to build on the Act, and we believe not to change it at this early stage, because stability, we believe, will lead to investment, which in turn will lead to growth and uncertainty, and change may not. Finally, we believe that a number of misconceptions about bus service provision currently exist, and these cover such things as subsidy, competition, service changes, profit, and investment. We have covered these issues in our written evidence and look forward to taking the opportunity today to expand on our evidence a bit further. To sum up, the industry's goal is to make the bus mode of choice. We want to achieve patronage growth to maintain and increase our investment to extend and enhance services and to contribute to social inclusion. To do that, we need a stable, regulatory environment; the flexibility to respond quickly to customer demand; quick and effective action on congestion and bus priority; speedier expenditure of allocated resources; the implementation of the Bus Strategy, and the ability to enter into joint arrangements to the benefit of our passengers, and not be constrained by Competition law. Local authorities, Madam Chairman, are absolutely essential and play a key role in this renaissance of the bus industry, and we will continue to work closely with them to achieve our joint objectives.

  3. Thank you very much, Mr Lockhead. We all look forward to the disbursal of any myths that may exist, and I am sure that the situation of stability is very important for those people who are standing at bus stops. You all state, one way or another, traditional bus services might not be the solution in parts of urban and rural England. Is your strategy to concentrate on higher frequency services along major routes?
  (Mr Cochrane) Our strategy is to deliver passenger volume growth consistent with the Government's ten year plan of a 10 per cent volume increase. That is what will make our businesses successful as we move forward, and that is what will contribute to the ongoing renaissance in public transport. You touched on alternative approaches to public transport, and these may well be appropriate in parts of the country where full size buses are no longer suitable, based on the volumes of demand and requirements in those areas. For example, taxi-bus type concepts -

  4. We will come to that, Mr Cochrane, but on the specific question: do you, as a strategy, concentrate on higher frequency services on major routes?
  (Mr Cochrane) No, our strategy is to develop a network that contributes to achieving passenger volume growth in each of the geographic areas in which we operate.

  5. Does anybody disagree with that? So none of you would suggest that you are concentrating more and more on high frequency services on major routes?
  (Mr Lockhead) I think, if what you mean by that is that we concentrate on areas where there is growth, and those are also high frequency routes, then you are right; we do where we see passenger growth, and particularly in those areas where car ownership is probably at the lowest level. We believe that those high frequency services that supply the level of service that people need is part of the Social Inclusion Agenda that you and the Government have adopted.

  6. Doubtless we shall question you about that. Do you notice any major change in the kinds of services that you are providing since the original Act was passed?
  (Mr Lockhead) I think substantial change: simplification of networks, better information and new technology is all combined to making the opportunity that we have now to make the bus more accessible than it has ever been. That is a significant benefit to us and to our customers.

  Chairman: We will come to various bits of that.

Andrew Bennett

  7. "Simplification of networks". What you are really saying is that is closing down routes, are you not?
  (Mr Lockhead) Just the opposite. It is expanding the network. A network of services is provided because we sell a monthly card, we sell a weekly card, and people want to travel seven days a week across the network. If we do not provide a network, we will not be able to sell those tickets, so it is very important that we restore, we maintain, and we expand that network of travel to make the ticket more valuable to the user.

Mr Donohoe

  8. What is the average age of your fleet in London by comparison to the rest of the country?
  (Mr Lockhead) If you take into account the Routemasters, then it is much higher than outside of London. If you take out the Routemaster, then it is about the same. Our average age in the whole country is just under eight years.

  9. Do you think that is acceptable?
  (Mr Lockhead) It is better than it was. The investment we have had in the last three or four years has taken it down from an average age of 11 years to eight years, which is about a half-life if the vehicle will last 15 years. Of course we would like to get it down below that, and our objective is to do so. I think the important thing is that we get good quality, low floor, easy accessible buses into networks.


  10. What would happen to those figures if you included the Routemasters?
  (Mr Lockhead) The average age for London would go up dramatically.

  11. To?
  (Mr Lockhead) I do not know. I do not have a figure.

  12. But they are very old?
  (Mr Clayton) Of the order of about 35 years old, although it is worth remembering that some 10 years ago they were all extensively overhauled and re-engined.

  13. But the point Mr Lockhead was making related to easy access.
  (Mr Clayton) The vehicles specified in London Routemasters is specified by Transport for London. It is not a matter for the operators.

Mr Donohoe

  14. But Transport for London say they have replaced 60 per cent of their fleet in recent years. Has this happened elsewhere?
  (Mr Clayton) In some parts of the country, yes.

  15. Could we have a note from the three companies, rather than take up any time on what the position is, as far as that situation is concerned?
  (Mr Lockhead) Absolutely. No problem.

  16. Only 15 per cent of the fares that are collected in Central London are by cash. I have heard from the Drivers Union that there are problems with the increasing numbers of assaults of the staff on buses. What are you doing to improve upon that situation as far as the rest of the country is concerned?
  (Mr Clayton) Thankfully, the number of serious assaults is very low, but they do happen, it is undeniable. We have been working very closely with the Trade Unions over many years in London, and increasingly in the rest of the country, with measures such as the fitting of the assault screens, which some staff actually do not like, because they see it as putting a barrier between them and their customers. Frankly, I think in some areas now, a duty of care has overridden that and we have to put them in, although they are not universally popular with our staff. We have also been investing quite substantially in the last 18 months on the fitting of very high tech Closed Circuit Television cameras on many vehicles which are there not just to protect our staff, but to give a much greater sense of safety to our customers as well. For some of them, that is an issue. We also have embarked in many areas on issues such as the avoidance of conflict, training for staff, being more aware of some people's disabilities, which, in itself, can be a source of conflict, and also ensuring that on certain issues, our staff just do not get involved, hard though that may be for them at times.

  17. But there is a trend, is there not, that there are more and more of the runs, particularly out of hour runs, being cancelled because of the level of vandalism and assaults that are taking place?
  (Mr Clayton) There are, on occasions, incidences where there is a significant level of vandalism or attacks which has required the short term withdrawal of services, often in conjunction and consultation with the Police. Thankfully, though, I would not want to give the impression that that is a widespread thing, but it does happen from time to time, both here in the Capital and in other parts of the UK.

  18. Mr Cochrane.
  (Mr Cochrane) If I could perhaps add to Mr Clayton's response. We at Stagecoach in both Manchester and London have been working closely with the Police Forces to put together a Special Unit to seek out perpetrators of incidents of vandalism of vehicles. In Manchester alone, vandalism costs us some £400,000 on an annual basis, and we have now invested, along with Arriva, in a fleet of CCTV monitors. We put those on specific routes where we are suffering from high levels of vandalism and graffiti attacks. The Police will ride those vehicles in conjunction with our drivers, and we have managed to achieve 30 convictions as a result of that joint effort.

  19. In 1985, when we got deregulation of the industry, one of the aspects that we were told was, "Let us give freedom for entry to the marketplace", and whatever else. Recently, we have read that the bigger companies, the three that sit in front of us, want to have re-regulation. Can you give us some indication as to whether that is true or not?
  (Mr Lockhead) Re-regulation?

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