Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Tories Reject Move To Let Profit-Making Buses Pay For Rural Ones

A call by Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats to fund better rural transport with commission from profit-making bus services has been rejected by the Tories.

The idea would involve a Quality Bus Contract scheme which would allow Cambridgeshire County Council to introduce cross-company ticketing arrangements, introduce competition into a local monopoly and provide better connections with rail services.

Lib Dem Leader, Kilian Bourke set out the plan in a motion which was voted down by the ruling Conservative group.

Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet member, Steve Criswell, said were already 25 operators competing in Cambridgeshire and this showed there was a lot of competition. But the main bus operator controls 86 per cent of all commercial services, including almost all the most profitable ones.

Councillor Bourke said: "It is very disappointing that the Conservatives voted against even looking into the potential benefits of introducing such a scheme.

"The current plan to cut 100 per cent of bus funding risks leaving rural people in a no-man's land, deprived of public transport. It will reinforce rural isolation and inequality, and limit opportunities for young people outside Cambridge.

"Given that the city's bus operation is basically a monopoly I think there is a lot to be said for taking a commission from the most profit-making buses and using this to provide socially necessary transport around the county.

"A Quality Bus Contract scheme would also allow us to introduce proper cross-company ticketing and to join up the bus and rail networks.  At a time of shrinking public and private sector funding we need to have 'one network' of public transport.

"I am surprised that the Conservatives voted against an idea that would have directly benefitted their constituents.  It is sad when politicians put ideology first, not the people they represent."

Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport, Susan van de Ven said: “Other rural councils have undertaken to find out more about what QBCs can offer.  In some cases this has served as leverage resulting in greatly improved partnerships.  Why not explore the possible benefits?”