Sunday, 22 April 2012

Public Transport and Regulation

Recently, train and bus fares have gone up, and quite considerably.

In Scotland, public transport is not regulated bar a few odds and sods when it comes to removing services and other pieces. Otherwise, the privately owned and taxpayer subsidised companies can basically do what they like.

A colleague of mine travels from Kilmarnock to Glasgow daily. He uses Stagecoach.. The cost of a weekly ticket rose from £32 to £36, more than the publicised 5% increase. My colleague noticed that since the fare increase, there has been a marked drop in passengers, even taking into account the Easter break. He's since found out that people are now taking the train because it is cheaper.

The bus for many of these people is more convenient, as they live some distance from the rail station in Kilmarnock, plus the bus service is more reliable. Anyone who uses either the Kilmarnock or East Kilbride rail services will understand where I'm coming from.

But the cost has impacted on them. £16 per month is a substantial increase and for many people it is simply too much.

There is no use in the Scottish Government blaming Westminster. They use the same excuse time and again. Transport is devolved to Scotland. There is the opportunity to get public transport in public ownership again, or at least regulated properly. The NHS is being dragged away from PFI, and only recently we've seen what problems you get with private companies - power cuts for starters.

So why not public transport? It is an essential service, more so given the increased prices in fuel and diesel. Running a car is fast becoming a luxury. It is also essential to a solid economy.

Transport Scotland is toothless. I know that from personal experience.

Scotland needs properly regulated public transport. There is little mileage in blaming previous administrations - voters are not interested in that. They want results. Let's have a rail and bus network where there is proper accountability. If that means a few private companies lose out, so be it. Long term effective services are more important than any short term political or monetary gain.

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