Friday, 1 July 2011

Letter to MP about bus franchising in Birmingham

Dear ,

I read a report in the Birmingham Post today:
which states in very factual terms that National Express have had a
good year and driven up profits 6%. It then goes on to say that they
did this primarily by charging passengers more (increasing the price
of travelcards 20% at a time of great financial uncertainty for the
people who rely most on the bus) and by cutting rural or less-popular
services (again, hitting the poorest hardest).

However, NXWM can get away with this as they run the vast majority of
bus services in Birmingham and commercial competition is practically
zero. Buses are important to people in this city (up to 1 million
journeys per day according to NXWM's own literature) and those without
access to cars, such as students, pensioners, and poorer households,
rely on them the most. Surely the operator of such a vital public
service shouldn't be allowed to hold the city to ransom for the sake
of increasing its profits?

Labour introduced the Local Transport Act in 2008 which allows
transport bodies such as Centro to specify the routes and fares which
should be run in an area, and to allow bus operators to bid for the
exclusive right to run services on these routes. Bad operators can be
fined if they fail on punctuality or fail to bring in agreed
improvements. London was spared the disastrous deregulation of buses
which occured during the Major years, and bus travel has continued to
increase in that time far beyond the growth levels seen in Birmingham
and other deregulated areas. However, Centro have continuously ignored
these powers, preferring to work on a voluntary partnership basis
which has led to a monopoly commercial operator holding the city to
ransom, and frustratingly slow take-up of new technology (which is now
standard in other areas of the country) such as smart card ticketing,
reliable real-time bus information, and audible announcements of the
next stop.

Franchising of bus routes in Birmingham would be fairer for
passengers, and fairer for other bus operators who are currently
effectively shut out due to NXWM's monopoly. I would urge you to look
further into this issue and do whatever you can to ensure the people
of Birmingham can travel to work, college, and the hospital without
being held to ransom by an out-of-control monopolistic operator.

Best regards,

Mark Rowan


  1. Very good letter, I can understand your problem and the undesirable affect that it has on yourself and the community.

  2. 1st of July ... how did I end up here?