Memorandum by Philip Longdon Esq (Bus
THE BUS INDUSTRY
I write in response to the HoC Transport Sub-Committee
Inquiry into the Bus Industry. I do so from the point of view
of a bus user. However, it is only fair to point out that I do
work in Public Transport, though not for a bus operating company.
My comments come from massive experience of bus usage, with detailed
operational and, as a council taxpayer, financial knowledge of
Public Transport operation in Greater Manchester.
I have to say at the outset that this inquiry
seems to be buck-passing of the worst kind, and somewhat hypocritical;
for instance, is there to be an investigation into the financing
of the Rail industry, bearing in mind that the vast majority of
tax-payers outside the South-East rarely, if ever, use trains.
Indeed, it seems to be yet another "smokescreen" for
Government to look like its doing something about Transport problems
in the UK, whilst it continues to ignore the most fundamental
reasons why Britain's traffic congestion problems are so bad and
are going to get a whole lot worse. The problem is quite simple:
Less than 70 per cent of Adults in Britain have full access to
private transport, but the Government, the motoring lobby and
the Media are all pretending we have 100 per cent access to private
transport (at least, outside London). You are doing nothing to
stop over 10 million (physically able) Adults from feeling forced
to acquire a car. Once they have done that, it is economic stupidity
to use public transport that costs considerably more than the
variable costs of a car (ie petrol) to use. See Case Study.
I understand that the CTSC is looking at five
No doubt the investigation (and of course, media
coverage) will concentrate on the headline subsidies paid to the
bus industry, failing to point out that:
(a) The vast majority of the subsidy comes
from LOCAL Government.
(b) The majority of the subsidy (in PTA areas,
at least) goes on Concessionary fares, NOT on socially necessary
(c) The subsidy paid for socially-necessary
services is inflated because of the outlawing of cross-subsidy,
and the total failure to enforce criminal law.
(d) Half of the "socially necessary"
services budget goes on school buses. This is inflated because
of the change in school hours in recent years making provision
of buses and drivers much less economic, and due to the high cost
of vandalism and misbehaviour by school children.
(e) The bus industry pays hundreds of millions
of pounds in tax to Central Government every yeara figure
passed onto the passenger of course.
(f) In many parts of the country, the bus
industry and (more importantly), their tax-paying customers get
very little back for those hundreds of millions of pounds. I refer
mainly to the absence of any form of Bus Priority on the vast
majority of routes; the naivety of the Traffic Commissioners who
think that buses can be run inside a "six minute" envelope
of punctuality under such circumstances; and (again) the lack
of enforcement of the Lawwhether it be missile attacks
on bus passengers or constant parking on bus stops (including
city centre termini).
(g) FDR is not a subsidy. If I pay you £100,
and you give me £75 back next year, you have gained £25
(plus the interest you can generate from investing the £100).
(h) No other public transport industry pays
(i) Massive public subsidy is spent in other
ways in this country (mostly in the South-East), not least on
Rail services, which are often in direct competition with commercial
bus services on a local basis, and on London weighting (a whole
separate debateif it wasn't for the fact that the North-South
Divide was a taboo subject in this country). Even now, the Government
are trying to get northerners to subsidise the exile of their
own "key" workers to London and the Home Counties. This
policy, of course, has a direct negative effect on bus service
reliability, as more and more drivers walk off the job.
Rural and Urban bus challenges are also mentioned.
Experience locally is fairly limited, especially as Urban Bus
Challenge is a new phenomenon. Where RBC has been implemented,
the results have been mixed. Some, doubtless, form a very useful
service for a limited number of people, but others seem to do
little more than abstract patronage from parallel commercial routes.
2. BUS QUALITY
As the Committee will be aware, Greater Manchester
has a Bus Quality Partnership (QP). This has been of limited use
insofar as relationships between most Operators (those that are
in the QP) has improvedboth amongst themselves, and with
GMPTE. The main tangible success is the "System One"
range of tickets giving passengers reasonable value transport,
irrelevant of the colour of the bus. Off-peak Rail is also included.
Beyond that, it has largely been a failure. A number of bus operators
are not signed up, and a minority of these continue to exemplify
the worst of bus deregulation: they are in existence purely to
deny revenue to one or other of the large operatorsby copying
their most frequent routes and running only during Schools and
(Mon-Sat) Shopping Hours;they ignore the "slot"
system designed to alleviate congestion in bus stations; and they
are often very late in providing service Registrations to GMPTE
for publicity purposes. Indeed, they are not above inventing imaginative
reasons for changing/withdrawing services at very short notice,
or simply withdrawing services overnight (as has happened recently
in my local area).
Manchester Airport's involvement has also had
limited success, but the ensuing improvements are confined to
specific areas close to the Airport, which because the Trafford
Centre is close by, and the general economy is much healthier
in the south and south-west of the county, has only served to
polarise the "winners and losers" of Government policy
(central and local).
Of the other signatories, AGMA and the Highways
Agency pay little more than lip service to the QP. The most obvious
example with AGMA (as representatives of the local Councils) is
the total absence of law enforcement concerning obstruction of
bus stops. Some councils have also installed poorly designed "traffic
calming" measures which have resulted in a very rough ride
for bus drivers and passengers alikeseveral times a day
and irrelevant of how slow and carefully the bus is driven. These
are usually on residential estateswhere bus operators are
looking to reduce/withdraw services anywayand seem to be
located near Schools. The idea of traffic calming measures improving
safety for school children is fundamentally flawed, because at
the start and finish of the school day, the roads around schools
are so clogged up with parked cars that it is impossible to drive
fast anyway. Further, I have noticed a general increase in reckless
driving on other, nearby stretches of road since these traffic
calming measures were introduced, as motorists strive to make
up (perceived) lost time.
Local Councils (along with the Highways Agency)
regularly give bus operators both very late and inaccurate warnings
about major roadworks and diversions.
I understand that GMP pulled out of signing
up to the QP at a late stage. This was a sensible move given the
low priority they (and indeed, Politicians, Educationalists etc)
give to missile attacks on bus passengers and drivers. In fairness
to them, GMP are grossly under funded, have 30 per cent less officers
per head of population than the Met, and now it seems the British
Transport Police are to receive £1.5 million to help police
London's bus services. As I assume you are aware, BTP have no
role whatsoever in protecting bus users outside Londonbut
then again, who does?
It is my firm belief that Quality Contracts
are the only way forward to reverse the growing chasm between
haves and have-nots in areas like Greater Manchester. The trend
(backed by the 1985 and 2000 Transport Acts) is for certain areas
to lose off-peak services as part of simplified networks. The
worst of this is that it is often large residential areas with
lower car ownership that are suffering.
3. BUS PRIORITY
As one senior GMP Officer said (before the days
of QPs); "We don't have much of a problem enforcing bus priorities
in Greater Manchesterthen again, we don't have many to
enforce!" The situation has improved a little bit, with Quality
Corridors in parts of the county. However, these have come into
use too slowly and, as an indication that they are largely financed
by Operators themselves, have so far been confined to areas where
First Manchester are the major operator, because First are investing
millions of pounds into the Corridors.
There are existing, and planned, corridors in
other parts of the countybut these are not necessarily
on the most suitable routes. The main existing one is the Wilmslow
Road corridor. I often think of Wilmslow Road as "mini-London";
It is the University corridor, full of students, from all over
the world, and it is the regional base of the BBC. Many of these
students and media people (particularly from southern England)
are very good at telling Mancunians what to do and what to think,
whether the subject is the Middle East or Transport. In the latter
case, they do it from a southern, middle-class, car-owning viewpoint.
This is, in a way, understandable, as Wilmslow Road has more off-peak
and all night bus services than the rest of Greater Manchester
combined, and the fares are considerably cheaper, too. It also
has bus lanes, but these are almost totally blocked by parked
cars in certain stretches. The next Quality Corridor is the A6.
This is similar in a way; it links Manchester with Stockport and
middle-class Hazel Grove. This route has proved controversial
because the corridor is used by vociferous motorists (many living
outside Greater Manchester) and (more understandably) the route
has many retail businesses with frontage on the A6. Other corridors
have slipped down the pecking orderpresumably for political
reasons, despite having a stronger practical case.
Apart from the vastly reduced cost and (theoretically)
shorter lead-in times, the main advantage of Bus Lanes over rail
lines is their flexibility allowing them to bring benefits to
a much larger catchment areathat and the fact that bus
fares for regular commuters are considerably lower than rail fares.
I would think Bus Lanes or full QBC's should have the following
Long unbroken stretches of wide roads,
to maximise the advantage of the exclusive lane, whilst minimising
disadvantages to other road users.
High number of different bus routes
feeding into the bus lane to bring reduced running times to the
maximum number of users. If these services are less frequent individually,
or the areas served are less well-off, so much the better from
a social exclusion point of view.
Bus lanes/QBCs should operate at
the very least from 0700hrs to 1900hrs, in both directions, and
preferably for the full period of service operation. The idea
that traffic congestion is limited to traditional peak hours is
outdated, and the current situation of Peak bus lanes in Manchester
operating from 1600hrs is ludicrous. Much congestion is caused
by schools traffic, and schools finish for the day as early as
Although much attention has been paid to Quality
Corridors, there is another, even more efficient measure that
I believe should be progressed much more quickly; Selected Vehicle
Detection (SVD). There are many reasons why the Traffic Commissioner's
demands for 95 per cent of buses to run within a "6 minute
envelope" are totally unrealistic (and that's a subject I
shall return to). One of the major reasons is traffic lights.
Indeed, I have missed many a connection due to a string of red
lights as buses approach connection pointsand I'm talking
connecting services that each run every 30 or 60 minutes.
Most traffic lights have cycles of at least
120 seconds (occasionally more), and if a bus just reaches traffic
lights as they turn red, it will lose most of that two minutes.
If it then pulls up at a lay-by bus stop just past the lights,
it will lose another two minutes, as Highway Code 79 is no longer
observed. This can be multiplied along the route as most urban
corridors have traffic light junctions every few hundred metres.
Further, buses are more likely to be stopped at traffic lights,
as many sets of lights are controlled by sensors detecting gaps
in the traffic. These gaps are often created because buses have
slower acceleration than cars, and are more likely to observe
30 mph speed limits. Even where lights are on a strict time cycle,
there seem to be many which require a vehicle setting off on green
at one set to travel a few mph above the limit to avoid approaching
the next set as they change to amber or red.
A notorious example in Greater Manchester is
a route that forms a half circle round the east side of the city.
This route encounters 27 sets of traffic lights, most of which
have minimal green time because the route crosses several major
corridors. It was calculated that the difference between hitting
every set of lights on green (very unlikely) and hitting every
set on red (more likely) is 81 minutes on a round tripslightly
outside the six-minute envelope! Consequently, SVD would not only
speed up bus journeys, but make them more predictable, too. Oh!
and you can't park on a Select Vehicle Detector. I respectfully
suggest that the Traffic Commissioners should only be allowed
to punish Operators for running more than five minutes late on
sections of route where successful Bus Priorities have been installed.
Predictably, this debate is split into black
and white; Many Bus Operators will say there is too much, whilst,
some politicians will say there is too little. I would tend to
agree with the latter, given that deregulation has been a total
disaster for the vast majority of tax-paying non-motorists outside
London. However, the main problem is we have the wrong regulations.
It is absolutely ludicrous that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can come
along and start a bus service having passed basic safety criteria,
yet the law says that every single registered journey must be
regarded as a profit centre, and that his/her service registration
should include totally arbitrary and often unpredictable timing
points at every other lamp post. The situation is then exacerbated
by less than fair enforcement of the regulations. For instance,
whilst one major operator in this area is building in this arbitrary
timing points to satisfy the traffic commissioner's demand for
timing points less than 10 minutes apart, other smaller operators
are persistently having registrations with 20 and 25 minute gaps
Indeed, apart from the billions of tax-payers
money squandered on luxuries for London (Millennium Dome, Millennium
Bridge, "National" Football Stadium, London Underground,
Chunnel etc) the main reason why I feel the Government is hypocritical
in investigating the bus industry is because the bus industry
is working under the Laws Parliament createdor more to
the point, the Tories created in 1985 and the Labour Government
endorsed two years ago. Perhaps worst off all, is MP's own apparent
Ignorance of that Legislation, particularly the outlawing of cross
subsidy. You cannot criticise bus operators for not running evening
and Sunday services, when you have endorsed a law that says that
they cannot use profits from peak hour journeys to cross-subsidise
those evening and Sunday services *even on the same route*and
that's before we get into arguments about evening services being
unprofitable because of an epidemic of criminal attacks, and cheap
fares after 1830hrs on subsidised rail lines.
If nothing else, the law should be changed so
that a profit centre is, at the very least, a full route.
I suppose the idea of Quality Indicators/Targets
is a form of Regulation. They would also be welcome . . . if they
came with an increased chance of them being achieved. Like the
10 per cent increase in patronage by 2010 aspiration, they should
not be used as a "blanket" target, with improvements
in some areas being off-set with deterioration elsewhere. Clearly,
patronage will increase in London at a much faster rate, as public
transport there is far better than the rest of urban Britain,
and there is increased centralisation of the national economy
in the bottom right-hand corner of Great Britain.
The most important indicator is reliability.
I have just seen in the trade press the latest figures for London,
which show a marked improvement in a short space of time, with
2.6 per cent of lost mileage deemed to be within bus operators'
control. Strangely, this includes lost mileage through traffic
congestion. How on earth can that be within the bus operators'
control? I don't have recent specific figures for Greater Manchester,
but from my knowledge of the local industry, I would think the
quoted figure of 0.6 per cent in London compares very favourably
with this county. The other figures quoted make for very interesting
reading: 1.55 per cent lost through vehicle breakdown/failure
and just 0.5 per cent through staff shortage. Whilst the former
figure suggests London buses are very badly maintained, the latter
figure is somewhat disconcerting, especially as I read it on the
day that the Chancellor announces yet more public money to further
fuel the over-heating London economy, by enticing "key"
workers to the already over-crowded Capital. Again, I don't have
specific figures to hand, only past figures and anecdotal evidence
and personal experience to suggest lost mileage is increasing
overall in Greater Manchester. However, I am sure that the lost
mileage through staff shortage here comes to a lot more than 0.5
per cent of total registered mileage.
Irrelevant of the total figure, the indicators
should take account of the inconvenience to the travelling public.
With staff failures in particular, it is often possible to redeploy
drivers from frequent routes to less frequent routes and/or to
duties including last journeys of the day. Indeed, this was standard
practice with the old GMT, and even GM Buses. However, the trend
is for the opposite to now happen. Certainly, where Traffic Commissioners
have recently gained more flexibility in punishing Operators for
unreliability, it is hoped that they take into account the inconvenience
caused as well as just the number or percentage of journeys lost.
Failure of an hourly journey, or of the last journey of the day,
should be taken far more seriously than the failure of a mid-morning
journey on a route with a 10-minute headway.
5. SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Social exclusion means different things to different
people, and a number of factors are doubtless used to define it.
These presumably include physical limitations, but should also
include financial limitations, as well as employment opportunities
I take my own area (Haughton Green), on the
Tameside/Stockport border as a case study (enclosed). Briefly,
what this emphasises is not so much a tendency towards further
reducing off-peak services in general, but more towards poorer
service levels in certain areas. In many cases, this retrenchment
does not make obvious commercial sense, and ironically means the
bus industry is adopting the in-built discrimination of the fixed-track
rail industry. Nevertheless, the point remains that existing Transport
and Competition legislation encourages these moves, through its
emphasis on single journey profit centres, instead of route-wide,
or even network profit centres.
In conclusion, I don't think that the House
of Commons in endorsing the regionally discriminating 1985 Transport
Act has the moral right to inquire into the bus industry. In fact,
it should be the tax paying, non-motorists of this country (OUTSIDE
LONDON) who should summon you to ask why we are being discriminated
against geographically and modally. 16 years on, there is still
an undercurrent of anger caused by the fact that the 1985 Act
discriminated between Londoners and non-Londoners. Everyone I
meet with even the slightest interest in transport issues, including
confirmed motorists, ask the same question; why wasn't London
CASE STUDY: HAUGHTON GREEN (DENTON SOUTH
Whilst I can hardly claim Haughton Green is
amongst the most deprived or socially excluded areas in Britain,
it is well above average, with over 2,000 non-car households and
a downward trend in job opportunities and pattern of bus services
contrasting with a dramatic increase in crime. It also has a low
profile politically, being positioned between two more notorious,
but demographically smaller "overspill" council estates
(Hattersley and Brinnington). Coincidentally, the ward population
total at the 1991 Census was 11,250exactly the same as
Shepperton quoted in a study by the NFBU. A more general study
on the subject of social exclusion (which incidentally pointed
out the total futility of rail services in poor areas) in the
mid-1990s listed Haughton Green as 4th in a table of Tameside's
19 wards, with 2,233 (47.4 per cent) car-less households. Tameside
itself is below "mid-table" in economic terms, having
suffered badly from the decline in manufacturing and lack of investment
in the second half of the 20th century. What investment has come
Tameside's way since that Social Exclusion study has bypassed
(literally, in one case) Denton and Haughton Green, despite the
fact that in population terms, Denton is Tameside's second largest
Haughton Green has been in existence for at
least 250 years and had its first tram service at the start of
the last century. This service survives almost unchanged (route-wise)
as today's bus number 347 to Denton itself and onto the borough
seat of Ashton-under-Lyne. The "village" end of the
ward is 1.8 miles from Denton centre and 4.3 miles from Ashton.
The Manchester "overspill" council estate, built in
the mid 1960s is slightly closer to Denton. The other commercial
bus services are 204 (Manchester-Denton-Haughton Green-Hyde) and
322 (to Stockport). Hyde is 1.5 miles away, Manchester just over
7 miles and Stockport just 5 miles.
To all intents and purposes, Haughton Green
is nowhere near the rail network. The 204 route has only been
in existence for 27 years, but before that rush-hour links to
Manchester were actually considerably better, whilst Hyde was
served by a separate irregular service. The 322 route was actually
introduced on deregulation day (at the direct cost of the Stockport-Denton
service), but had actually been conceived some three years earlier,
and indeed was all set to start in January 1986, but a speeding
up of preparations for deregulation delayed it by nine months.
This service runs hourly, Mon-Sat daytimes only, but is the only
bus service in Haughton Green to have a subsidised variation,
with a messy evening and Sunday route (numbered 324) also covering
Denton centre. Arriva currently run the evening tender on this
route, with Stagecoach running all the regular commercial services
(with daytime competition on 347) and the Sunday 324.
From the users point of view, it would be much
better if the 324 contracts had been awarded in reverse. Because
Arriva run the evening service there is a fare penalty of up to
£5.70 a week for anyone working evenings in or beyond Stockport.
On the other hand, Arriva, in common with First and many other
operators in Gtr. Manchester have responded to GMPTA's plea to
bring the county more in line with the rest of Britain by introducing
Sunday levels of service on Bank Holidays. Unfortunately, Stagecoach
have not, and they run a very basic Bank Holiday service. This
is where the trend is highlighted: Haughton Green has more buses
per hour off-peak on a normal Monday than on the whole
of a Bank Holiday. In fact, the only service to run on Bank Holidays
is the 347, and this finishes around 1830hrs. In other words,
you have an area with over 2,000 non-car households and a century
long history of public transport usage, 1.5 miles away from the
nearest public transport for 13+ evenings a year. As well as losing
out on the recent improvement in Bank Holiday services, Haughton
Green has missed out on similar improvements to night services,
has lost its Christmas and New Year's Eve evening services, and
hasn't benefited from Commonwealth Games enhancements (although
other nearby areas have). To put this into context on a commercial
(a) Based on 1988/89 figures (when I worked
for the now defunct GM Buses), the 347 service was the
most profitable service in what is now the Stagecoach Manchester
network of well over 100 routes.
(b) Since 1985, despite (or is it because
of) intermittent direct competition, the single fare from Haughton
Green to Denton has increased nearly 300 per centalbeit
the expansion of day tickets and a slower increase in prices of
period tickets means that fewer people pay single fares. This
means a round trip to the nearest centre with full amenities costs
£1.80 by bus, about four times the cost of unleaded petrol.
Indeed, the occasional travellers who still pay single fares often
include the Unemployedof which there are many not even
entitled to claim benefits. In a similar period, bus drivers wages
have gone up little more than 30 per centand obviously
their conditions have worsened with the increase in assaults,
robberies and missile attacks, etc. Also, due to an historical
quirk the single fare to Hyde is actually more expensive!
(c) All the enhancements "missed out",
outlined above, would be based on service 204, and in many cases
would be done at the "expense" of service 201 journeys
that run directly up the main A57 between Denton and Hyde. This
stretch of the A57 is sparsely populated compared to Haughton
Green, and none of it would be more than 0.6 miles walk from the
204 route or other services. Other, slightly more imaginative,
alternatives could also be found (eg combining 201 and 204).
There is one other aspect of the current trend,
which had escaped this area until recently, due to a hangover
of the "public service ethic" and better than average
management/staff relations at (at least) one of Stagecoach's depots.
Where bus journeys were bound to fail due to staff shortage and/or
severe traffic congestion (both common occurrences) we used to
benefit by "front line" staff at Stagecoach making every
attempt to ensure the less frequent services were the more reliable.
However, there have been numerous examples recently suggesting
this may no longer be the case, and Stagecoach seem to be following
the example of First and other companies in giving priority to
the corridor stretches of frequent services over the less frequent,
The Government has a self-imposed target of
increasing bus usage by 10 per cent in 10 years. Typically, for
a Government which has one law for London and another for the
rest of the UK, and has legislation that puts every single journey
as a cost centre, they wanted this as a blanket figure, knowing
full well major gains in London and isolated areas with pro-public
transport councils eg Brighton, Edinburgh etc, would have to cover
up losses elsewhere, particularly areas with a declining economy
such as the urban North West. In reality, there is no chance under
the 2000 Act that patronage in Greater Manchester will increase
at all. There may be stability in (relative) boom areas such as
Trafford, but there will be losses in declining areas such as
Perhaps the biggest failure and disappointment
of recent years in this area, has been the completion of the M60
motorway. Hailed as a saviour both in terms of reduced traffic
congestion and increased jobsthe opposite seems to be true.
The motorway is congested every rush hour, particularly between
Denton and Stockport, and the slightest accident as far away as
Cheadle or even Worsley brings gridlock, with increased traffic
on other roads such as the A57 Hyde Road. Since the opening of
the motorway, my average bus journey time to work, in central
Manchester has increased between five to seven minutes, mainly
due to congestion between the Denton "Island" and Reddish
Bridge, and indeed, getting out of Haughton Green itself. The
latter phenomenon is believed to be due to rat-runners from Hyde
and Longdendale trying to avoid the congested M60 and M67, combined,
of course, with the School Run. Although, I have not had
cause to travel the route myself, I'm told that rush-hour traffic
has also increased on the A6017 between Ashton and Audenshaw.
This local anecdotal evidence is backed by a recent national survey
stating that this stretch of road attracts more complaints about
traffic noise than almost any other in Great Britain.
The completion of the M60 was also followed
by a number of factory closure announcements in the Denton, Audenshaw
and Guide Bridge areas. Although, there is, belatedly, talk of
investment in Retail projects in Denton, it is feared that jobs
will go to car-bound commuters from outside the area, thus increasing
traffic congestion even more. Further, because the two larger
planned developments will not be either in Denton town centre,
or even on the A57 corridor, commercial bus operators will not
be interested in serving them, thus creating yet more of a gap
between retail choices and price savings for motorists compared
Further afield, transport links remain poor:
Service 347 continues to serve the borough seat and main shopping
areas of Denton and Ashton, with a healthy catchment on other
parts of the route, not just Haughton Green. Evening loadings
remain remarkably healthy on this route, albeit the last bus no
longer carries a full load home from the pub, and unfortunately,
a high proportion of weekday evening passengers are gangs of kids.
Service 204 is undermined, not only by traffic congestion, but
also by its city terminus on the periphery of Manchesteruntil
1995 it ran all the way through the city centre to Victoria Rail
Station. Because the economy of Greater Manchester is moving more
and more to the south; South Manchester, Stockport and Trafford,
service 322 should be the route with the most potential to improve
job prospects for residents in the area. Unfortunately, it only
runs hourly, gets caught up in traffic congestion approaching
Stockport, and the connections for services to Manchester Airport
(bus), Birmingham and Sheffield (train) could hardly be worse.
In addition, the service is run by a single-decker, and over-loading
is not unknown in the evening peak, such that there has been occasion
when people have had to wait an hour for the bus to come round
again. A similar situation with less serious consequences, as
the bus runs every 15-30 minutes, has happened with service 204
out of Manchester. This too, is a problem partially created by
existing legislation, which has outlawed loading restrictions.
In both cases, Haughton Green bound passengers are fighting for
capacity with short riders who have far more choice of buses.
With major employment centres becoming more
and more isolated, it is success stories like the Trafford Centre
and Manchester Airport that need to be considered in this context.
Both are 24-hour operations, but even an 8 am start would prove
particularly unattractive by public transport. To reach the Trafford
Centre (about 14 miles away) by 8 am on a weekday would require
catching the first bus of the day at 6 am (though Saturday is
slightly easier), but it could not be reached until after 9 am
on a Sunday. Manchester Airport is about 12 miles away by road
(but less than eight miles by air). In this case a 6.30 am start
would be needed for a long and expensive journey by bus to Manchester
and then train back out to the Airportalthough a much quicker
and cheaper possibility through Stockport exists "on paper"
until 7 September. On a Sunday, it would again be after 9 am,
and on Bank Holidays about 10 am. In the case of the Airport,
this also means public transport is ruled out as an Airline passenger
in many cases, raising the perverse scenario that it can cost
a Haughton Green resident living under the Approach flight path
more in taxi fares to reach the Airport, than it costs rich Southerners
in air fare to fly from Stansted or Luton to Europe! Almost as
perverse, is the fact that if I lived in Buxton (28 road-miles
from the Airport), a Derbyshire town with high car-ownership and
little political or economic dependence on Greater Manchester,
I could reach the Airport well before 6 am by bus, on 362 days
On the surface, this looks like evidence to
illustrate that the bus industry is failing some of its customers,
and is widening the social exclusion gap. However, the whole point
is that they are doing so by following the legislation that you,
the House of Commons, passed in 1985 and endorsed in 2000. This
Legislation says that they cannot cross-subsidise and must act
in a purely business like manner by maximising profits on each
and every registered journey. Indeed, the law says they cannot
make a sustained operating loss on any individual journey, no
matter how beneficial that journey might be to individual taxpayers.