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 Post subject: The Daily Telegraph
PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:16 pm 
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Monday October 3rd. Back page. Personal View.

A comment on "The dangers of Bus Re-regulation" (sic)

Or Telegraph website at www.telegraph.co.uk

Anyone would think that Bus de-regulation had gone right in the last 20 years.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 10:20 pm 
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tried looking for the link, cant find it


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:24 pm 
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Personal view: Urge to regulate buses shows that lessons of the past are ignored

By John Blundell (Filed: 03/10/2005)


There are weasel words that tell you when pernicious ideas are at work. For example, if experts tell us matters must be "organised rationally", "integrated" or "co-ordinated" they only mean authority must coerce the rest of us.

We celebrate this month the 20th anniversary of the late great Nicholas Ridley's 1985 Transport Act that liberalised so much of our wheeled traffic. It is difficult to recall the seedy ineptitude of the nationalised railways, buses and lorries.

When a writer really knows his subject he cannot fail to surprise. I had vaguely assumed that bureaucratic control of transport was born in 1945 after the Labour landslide. However, John Hibbs, main author of the forthcoming The Dangers of Bus Re-Regulation, reveals a landscape of absurdity that would be comedy but for the decades of distortion and waste. Fatuous rules are almost as old as the wheel itself.

Buses seem to invite bureaucrats to feast as a carcass does flies. Whether it was horse-drawn carts, stage coaches, horse-drawn omnibuses, trolleys, trams, local bus services or inter-city services, the regulators were there impeding the market "discovering" what people may prefer. The Stage Coach Act of 1832 was devised to impede the impertinent arrival of steam trains. The Town Police Act of 1847 stopped horses hauling people to destinations without thickets of permissions.

The philosophy of intervention was fully developed and articulated after the First World War by Sir Eric Geddes and constraints on entry and competition were gradually introduced throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Cartels were reinforced and economic rationality in pricing and management was jettisoned.

Railways were favoured while in most parts of the country bus travel is far more important. The lack of marginal cost pricing led to route closures and the industry lost all incentive to control costs. With a very few noble exceptions (such as Stagecoach's brave and brilliant Brian Souter) most of the men in suits of the bus industry have sought regulation to bar competitors entering the market. What is urged now is a local monopoly. Competition in prices or routes or timing would only confuse the public, they argue.

John Hibbs' historical sweep of urban transport confirms what I suppose I knew intuitively - that people were as foolish in the past as they are today. As matters stand, the 2000 Transport Act is poised to neuter the remaining vestiges of competition and leave all real powers to local authorities.

A new threat emerges too. The European Commission wants to regulate buses to deter the "chaos" of the marketplace and "unfettered competition". The principle of subsidiarity does not apparently stop Brussels from regulating buses in Milton Keynes, Cardiff or Stirling.

This arresting little book took my imagination to unexpected places. Do roads need to be public property? Could they not be run by companies either owning them or on long-term leases? Should roads not be priced? The Inner London experiment from Ken Livingstone is but a blunt instrument compared to digital devices that can read each vehicle journey.

Could we not scrap vehicle taxes and fuel duty too? Are buses really what we want? It may be that a hybrid, half taxi, half coach may evolve. So much of new building assumes ever more cars but with real, not just token, pricing would car demand stall?

My favourite quote from this study is from FA Hayek's Nobel Prize lecture of 1974. This is very illuminating: "It is indeed the source of the superiority of the market order... that in the resulting allocation of resources more of the knowledge of particular facts will be utilised which exists only dispersed among uncounted persons, than any one person can possess. But because we, the observing scientists, can thus never know all the determinants of such an order, and in consequence also cannot know at which particular structure of prices demand would everywhere equal supply, we also cannot measure the deviations from that order."

In other words, the diffused, pluralistic, seemingly muddled market allows us all to collaborate far better than any command and control policies. It is counter intuitive and the clever sillies just cannot get it.

Nicholas Ridley was bold but the instinct to regulate and direct is still alive and active. The argument over buses is only a cameo of the wider fight for liberty over compulsion. Regulation, even the most benignly intended, expropriates choices. It also distorts the price system and prices are signals that carry information.

Markets need several qualities. A crucial one is freedom of entry. The instinct of every local authority seems to be to create a municipal monopoly and bar new services.

We may regard the iconic London red buses as a badge of the capital known around the world but what would be wrong with a multiple patchwork of different colours and liveries and different sizes?

It is possible that the public transport evolving in Cairo, Istanbul and Manila may have more to teach us than both the T&GWU or the EU Commission. The only way to find out is via the market process of discovery.

The 1985 Act was a victorious skirmish but the battle continues.

John Blundell is director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs

"The Dangers of Bus Re-Regulation" is forthcoming from the IEA, price £12.50 including P&P

Sounds like a good Xmas stocking filler that one. I think Captain Cab would enjoy that one. :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:25 pm 
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TDO wrote:
Markets need several qualities. A crucial one is freedom of entry. The instinct of every local authority seems to be to create a municipal monopoly and bar new services.



Surely that kind of thing doesn't happen :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:26 pm 
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TDO wrote:
The 1985 Act was a victorious skirmish but the battle continues.

Can't argue with that. :-$

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 8:53 pm 
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Sussex wrote:
TDO wrote:
The 1985 Act was a victorious skirmish but the battle continues.

Can't argue with that. :-$


Cairo, Istanbul, Manilla.

Been to all three, as it happens (courtesy the grey funnel line) Oh yes, wonderful passenger transport systems in each and every one.
Camels, the safest place to be in Cairo, Dolmus, (Stuffed) you will be in Istanbul, and Jeepneys, left over US jeeps from WW11 in Manilla.
Where are all those new bus companies that started after Bus de-reg in 1985? Gone bust of course. How many bus companies operate in your town? One, I bet. Stagecoach?, or some other Souter owned company?
How did he get so rich? by asset stripping of course. There is no possibility of competition in the bus industry now, so it is actually more single company monopoly than it was before 1985. If any upstart dared to try and start new routes he would be ruthlessly squeezed out by the established companies. A lesson to be learnt by the Taxi industry.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 11:29 pm 
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I've never really been able to see the parallels between the bus and taxi industry, so what are they exactly Jimbo?

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 9:22 am 
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TDO wrote:
I've never really been able to see the parallels between the bus and taxi industry, so what are they exactly Jimbo?


Bus deregulation happened in 1985. Until then bus companies had a monopoly on routes in defined areas, so for instance in Lincolnshire, Lincoln City Transport, owned and operated by the City Council had sole operating rights within the City boundary. Outside the City Boundary was the territory of Lincolnshire Road Car. Road Car buses could not pick up passengers within the City boundaries, even though they were passing passengers waiting at stops. Deregulation of licenses was designed to bring about competition, and for a while it did, with buses racing to the next stop to get the passengers, and there was also a "fare war". Inevetably, one of the two operators went under,that was City transport, and they were taken over by Road Car, who then had a monopoly, and fares rose again. There is in theory an opportunity for a rival firm to come into Lincoln in competition with Road Car, but it is now unlikely.

The parallels are :- Public Transport, Deregulation/De-limitation, Fare wars,a reduction in fleet quality due to low fares, and an inevitable survival of the fittest competition that does not best serve the travelling public. I am, by the way, an ex employee of Lincolnshire Road Car.
The DfT document on the Future Taxi Parc states that Bus fares have risen more steeply than Taxi fares.

The only non parrallel is, the massive subsidies Bus operators recieve.

Ever heard of a subsidy for Taxi operators?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 7:48 pm 
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jimbo wrote:
The parallels are :- Public Transport, Deregulation/De-limitation, Fare wars,a reduction in fleet quality due to low fares, and an inevitable survival of the fittest competition that does not best serve the travelling public. I am, by the way, an ex employee of Lincolnshire Road Car.


You may have a point with regard to full deregulation of the trade (ie the removal of quality and fare controls as well as quantity control), but who is arguing for that?

The OFT certainly didn't, and personally I'm not in favour of encouraging fare competition, and I don't think anyone in the trade is. And my view is that standards should be raised in many areas, not lowered. This would preclude the quality problems you allude to, and thus keep numbers down and to that extent keep fares up.

It's that holisitic approach, innit? :D

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 8:10 pm 
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jimbo wrote:
TDO wrote:
I've never really been able to see the parallels between the bus and taxi industry, so what are they exactly Jimbo?


Bus deregulation happened in 1985. Until then bus companies had a monopoly on routes in defined areas, so for instance in Lincolnshire, Lincoln City Transport, owned and operated by the City Council had sole operating rights within the City boundary.


Bus deregulation happened without any vehicle age quality control, I can't see how you can draw a comparison between the Taxi trade and buses.

Most of the reports I have read about bus deregulation praise the improvement in service and non have advocated going back to what some might term as a regulated market.

Perhaps the situation is different down in Lincoln but here in the NorthWest we have several bus companies competing for business. I really can't see the parallel with the Taxi Trade?

JD


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 6:14 pm 
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JD wrote:
jimbo wrote:
TDO wrote:
I've never really been able to see the parallels between the bus and taxi industry, so what are they exactly Jimbo?


Bus deregulation happened in 1985. Until then bus companies had a monopoly on routes in defined areas, so for instance in Lincolnshire, Lincoln City Transport, owned and operated by the City Council had sole operating rights within the City boundary.


Bus deregulation happened without any vehicle age quality control, I can't see how you can draw a comparison between the Taxi trade and buses.

Most of the reports I have read about bus deregulation praise the improvement in service and non have advocated going back to what some might term as a regulated market.

Perhaps the situation is different down in Lincoln but here in the NorthWest we have several bus companies competing for business. I really can't see the parallel with the Taxi Trade?

JD


You can' see the woods for the trees. try harder, next time.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 3:56 am 
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jimbo wrote:
JD wrote:
jimbo wrote:
TDO wrote:
I've never really been able to see the parallels between the bus and taxi industry, so what are they exactly Jimbo?


Bus deregulation happened in 1985. Until then bus companies had a monopoly on routes in defined areas, so for instance in Lincolnshire, Lincoln City Transport, owned and operated by the City Council had sole operating rights within the City boundary.


Bus deregulation happened without any vehicle age quality control, I can't see how you can draw a comparison between the Taxi trade and buses.

Most of the reports I have read about bus deregulation praise the improvement in service and non have advocated going back to what some might term as a regulated market.

Perhaps the situation is different down in Lincoln but here in the NorthWest we have several bus companies competing for business. I really can't see the parallel with the Taxi Trade?

JD


You can' see the woods for the trees. try harder, next time.


Nothing wrong with the bus services in Manchester. Maybe you think there is?

JD


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 6:40 pm 
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Never caught a bus in Manchester, so I would not know.

But I was in Glasgow in October 1985 when bus deregulation kicked in, and the streets were gridlocked by competing buses. They were fighting over single passengers.

In my view this will happen in certain larger Cities where Taxi delimitation is brought in. In Manchester, say, will taxi's from Greater Manchester be sucked into the central area, leaving the outer limits, (yesI know,) with a lack of cabs?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 7:22 pm 
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jimbo wrote:
In my view this will happen in certain larger Cities where Taxi delimitation is brought in.

What like London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Cardiff. :-k

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 8:32 pm 
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Sussex wrote:
jimbo wrote:
In my view this will happen in certain larger Cities where Taxi delimitation is brought in.

What like London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Cardiff. :-k

Yes.


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