Some of us will quite clearly recall what our *local* politicians felt about deregulation, all those years ago. 1985 was a busy year of protest at local level and invariably, politicians across the spectrum linked arms and united against the changes soon to be imposed on the buses by central government. This included Conservative councillors, who were often at odds with their national betters.
Indeed, history tells us that on transport matters, again at a *local* level, there’s been remarkable unity between the political parties, pre- and post-deregulation. Bournemouth is as good an example as any. Save for a bit of a wobble at one time and in spite of what you may expect, there was absolutely no desire for the longstanding conservative administration to sell Bournemouth Transport. Indeed, it resisted that temptation. When it comes down to it, politicians are seemingly very sensitive to changes on the buses.
Things move on, as they did in Bournemouth, with a change of administration. And in recent years, we’ve started to see politicians diverging when it comes to selling the municipal silver. Financial pressures and all that.
It was interesting to note the views of politicians from West Yorkshire integrated transport authority (the former PTA) in a recent P.T.E.G./WYITA three-minute video on the possibilities of quality contracts. The parties were speaking as one.
The opposition Labour spokesman suggested that there’d be no need for QCs if “the people that’s running the bus service out there would’ve run them correctly.” There aren’t enough buses and they get cancelled at a whim, it would seem. “The only way to overcome this is a quality bus contract. We will pay you and we’ll tell you where to go…” And he concluded, “It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this but it’s the only way we can serve the people of West Yorkshire”.
Somewhat against his own national leadership—unless it can be persuaded otherwise—the WYITA Conservative deputy chairman felt that First had “really let down passengers” by overcharging and under-delivering. He talked of taking control to provide residents with the level of service they needed.
Quite some political unanimity, redolent of days of yore in local transport.
For balance, there was nothing on the video about:
- How WYPTA had taken the decision to sell its operations and by effectively proposing to take it back under control the WYITA might now be acting disingenuously. On the other hand, First has had some 10 years to get into partnership.
- The subsidy versus commercial services equation. That is, the cost of QCs and the financial constraints WYITA may face in future.
- Any recognition that it’s in each operators’ interest to price as attractively as possible; and to turn out a full garage of buses each morning.