More services, more riders
SIR – Gregory Beecroft (Letters, January 16) makes some excellent points about the local buses. I used the bus service frequently when back at Christmas and what struck me was its haphazard nature. Some of the inter-town routes – WGC to Hatfield and St Al
SIR - Gregory Beecroft (Letters, January 16) makes some excellent points about the local buses. I used the bus service frequently when back at Christmas and what struck me was its haphazard nature. Some of the inter-town routes - WGC to Hatfield and St Albans - have never been so good. But the "intra-town" service, from Sweet Briar to Haldens, for instance, is non-existent in the evenings.
A standard transport company response is that there is no demand on certain routes at certain times. But this argument belies two realities: first, what companies are effectively saying is that they are incapable of creating demand; as Mr Beecroft implies, bus companies have a monopoly on those who have to take the bus - their captive market comprising the elderly, the carless (often working women) and schoolkids. They make no real effort to get car drivers onto the bus, especially those drivers travelling on the short trips of under two miles that comprise the overwhelming - and most polluting - majority of car journeys.
But the second reality is that companies don't tend to cross-subsidise. In an ideal world - to which some of us unashamedly still aspire - the cost of low-traffic routes would be offset against high traffic ones. But of course this goes against the ideological nature of deregulation and is impossible when you have different companies involved. Vast transport conglomerates such as Arriva are not answerable to their passengers but their shareholders, a conflict of interest that neo-liberals can never quite square.
Numerous studies have shown that service frequency is the key variable in determining transport - especially bus - use. Time-sensitive people, quite reasonably, are unwilling to wait more than a certain period of time for a bus to arrive. One of the lessons from London - where getting people onto public transport has been an overall success story - is that increasing the frequency disproportionately increases the number of bus riders.
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What Welwyn Hatfield needs, but of course won't get, is a massive increase in the number of buses at all times of the day so that the bus becomes an automatic choice and not - as Margaret Thatcher told us when bus deregulation occurred in the 1980s - the default option of those of us that were "failures" in life.
A ten-minute frequency from 6am to midnight between Haldens and WGC train station, for instance, would, I imagine, have many people looking at their parking and petrol costs and heading for the bus stop.
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