Why buses are like this

PUBLISHED: 10:10 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 21:18 26 October 2009

Sir - I refer to the letter from Gregory Beecroft (WHT, January 16) and thoroughly agree with the point he makes about poor bus service frequencies in the shire counties. To understand the reason for this we need to go back to the Transport Act of 1985, p

Sir - I refer to the letter from Gregory Beecroft (WHT, January 16) and thoroughly agree with the point he makes about poor bus service frequencies in the shire counties.

To understand the reason for this we need to go back to the Transport Act of 1985, passed by the Tories, which saw the deregulation and privatisation of all bus services outside of London.

Prior to that bus services in this area were provided by London Country Bus Services Ltd, part of the National Bus Company, which had a legal obligation to break even, ie not to make a profit and not to make a loss.

Profitable services cross-subsidised those that made a loss. A reasonable network was provided.

The Tories decided to sell off the 72 National Bus Company subsidiaries, after first breaking up London Country into four parts to make it easier to sell (but less commercially viable!) and all services are now provided by private companies.

The Tories also said that cross-subsidy was wrong, and required the bus companies to only operate services that they could run profitably (i.e. without subsidy). Currently 85 per cent of services are run in this way, with no public support. Socially desirable but uneconomic services, generally those in the rural areas, and evening and Sunday services, were to be put out to tender, and the decision as to what was offered now lies with the councils.

This was to the Tories' liking, as the new system saved taxpayers' money, and even today public financial support for buses is minimal.

So the reason why Mr Beecroft has no evening service on his 403 bus is because the Tory county council in Hertfordshire are not prepared to put it out to tender.

The timing of the evening 301 bus, which is run by uno not Arriva, is down to the county council again.

Simon Archer (regular bus user!), Travellers Lane, Hatfield.

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