Blimey! That was quick. A couple of days ago we brandished our placards – see previous post: Save Our Bus! We Want The Bus!
Then this happened. The Office of Fair Trading announced it was referring local bus services to the Competition Commission. (Not including London or Northern Ireland.) Because apparently fares are 9% higher where one big bus company has a monopoly.
Instant results from one small protest.
Or coincidence? Let’s just skip on ahead to the more important question.
Will more competition help?
The OFT suspects large operators of taking a hands-off (non-competitive) approach to each others’ territories, thereby keeping fare prices high.
But more competition could lead merely to short term fare reductions, the crushing of smaller operators and the long term establishment of fewer even more widespread monopolies than before. And that’s not to mention the dislocation and confusion we’re still suffering thanks to the privatisation and splitting up of the rail network.
For their part, the big companies say they are already in fierce competition… With the car. And that what’s needed is more public subsidy for unprofitable routes. Subsidy paid for by local councils, i.e. me. And you.
Worthwhile? For the sake of preserving vital social glue? Or cutting emissions?
But back to our local bus service. Discussions on altering another existing route to fill the gap left by the axing of the old service have been postponed. Pesky snow.