Or... 2p or not 2p, that is the question. Or... tuppence for your thoughts ...
Hardly surprising really. Analysis of the Competition Commission initial report has been all over the trade press like a rash. Fortnightly Passenger Transport was ideally placed to maximise its coverage and it reminded me of newspapers at the death of Diana, princess of Wales or That Wedding. See pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 14, 17, 22 & 26. That kind of thing.
Passenger Transport chose to lead on the cost of a perceived lack of competition. The CC had calculated that market failures were costing the passenger a whopping £70mil a year. Not each passenger individually : ) but all of them (us), together. Passenger Transport divided this £70mil by the 2.9bil journeys passengers make. The adverse effect of a so-called uncompetitive market? In crude terms, 2.4p per passenger journey. In true bingo still, not “7/6d, was she worth it?” but “2p, was it worth it?”, they asked. You could barely feed the birds for that, at tuppence (2d) a bag, even in Mary Poppins’s time. Assuming that a passenger travels by bus on five return journeys a week, for 48 weeks of the year, and this will cost each one of them (us) £9.60.
But the real mystery of the CC report is not the imperceptibly small value on market distortion but the tension we now see before as the CC grapples with exactly what to do, to give each passenger back its tuppence a trip. It’s as if the CC doesn’t quite know which way to turn. It wants to see more competition yet accepts that bus wars can be counter-productive. It wants to see a more competitive market but, where competition is said to be failing, proposes something completely anti-competitive: franchising. Is it me, or does a quality contract actually distort the free market and remove competition? The CC should make up its mind.
Oh, go on then. Argue that competition is best off-street in a race for a franchise rather than on-street in a race for the bus stop. But say cheerio to smaller operators in the process.