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.
We’ve been out protesting. No, not Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine. Not climate change nor nuclear power. Once upon a time it was “Maggie Maggie Maggie! Out! Out! Out!” Now it’s “The wheels on the bus go round and round.”
Sure there’s nothing better than children with homemade placards.
But will it save the bus? The old service was already too expensive, unreliable and irregular. A deterrent to using it. The replacement service looks to be worse. Most of the passengers travel for free – on pensioner bus passes. The county council has cut the subsidy.
So it’s almost certainly uneconomic. But it’s also part of the social glue that holds disparate communities together. Just like the local post office.
So altogether now: “Save Our Bus! We Want The Bus!”
Just another day at the office, pictured by a colleague. Are they e United Against Facism protestors, cross about the BNP’s Nick Griffin appearing on Question Time. Or the queue for Jonathan Ross? Or Harry Hill?A TV Centre tour? Or the bus queue. Hard to tell.
But all the fuss of the day reminded me of The Man They Couldn’t Hang and their song “The Ghosts of Cable Street”.
Blackwatertown - the blog & the book - are by Paul Waters. (So is The Obituarist.) I present a podcast & radio show called We'd Like A Word with Stevyn Colgan. It's about books, authors, publishers, readers, editors, agents, illustrators, poets, script writers & lyricists. The podcast is at https://anchor.fm/wed-like-a-word or wherever you get your podcasts. And the website is www.wedlikeaword.com or on social media @wedlikeaword
I also make other radio, TV & podcasts. Leave a comment or email me at paulwaters99 at hotmail.com Thanks for reading. Paul