Bus Fares, etc

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Fact 1 – Contrary to popular opinion, bus fares are not always lower than rail. Some objectors to rail closures stated that the fare that they would have to pay by bus would be higher than on a line proposed for closure. Examples may be found in The Railway Closure Controversy, which sets out facts extracted from public hearings of closure proposals.


Fact 2 – “No sooner had a rail service closed, than bus fares rose to heights which made it difficult for constituents to go about their business at reasonable prices,” (Hansard, vol. 590, col. 202). 


Fact 3 - Bus fares are held down by the level of rail fares. If all railways closed, road charges would be free to rise, allowing shorter drivers’ hours and higher wages. Pressures for improved safety would lead to higher vehicle building costs.


Fact 4 – Bus services would not be profitable after conversion of railways to roads if fares were reduced by 64% as claimed in the 1975 East Anglian study. The reality is that a subsidy in excess of that paid to railways would have been required. (See Railway Conversion – the impractical dream, page 139 for a summary of the costs and fares proposed by the authors of that conversion scheme, which demonstrate this fact). My analysis shows - on their own figures - that costs were seriously under estimated. They had compared 7 day revenue with 5 day costs, but which still gave an overall loss, which they missed. Averages used were untenable. Their method of collecting fares – passengers putting the fare or pre-purchased tickets in a sealed box – defies belief.


Fact 5 – In any case, decisions as to the mode of transport to be used are not determined by the fare level alone. Speed, comfort, safety, the freedom to get up and move around – avoid DVT - and the opportunity to work in comfort are among the factors considered. Desperate advocates of conversion wildly claim that similar standards can be built into new PSVs, but ignore that the costs of installing and maintaining them would affect capital & operating costs, and, hence, fares. These features would also reduce seating. They ignore that these new undesigned, uncosted vehicles would not appear in service immediately. For obvious reasons, existing PSV designs would prevail for some time. About 5-10 years would be the optimistic benchmark for rail-replacement provision, and that would have to be followed, for reasons of fleet flexibility, by all vehicles over another 10 years.


Fact 6 – Motorists invariably consider only the marginal cost of petrol in assessing their travel costs for a particular journey. Despite this, station carparks are well used by motorists making a trunk or commuting journey by rail. The parallel is not found with bus/coach travel.


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More information will be found in “Railway Conversion – the impractical dream” by E.A. Gibbins