Bus Fare Increase not adequately thought through

June 30th, 2010 by Tony Webber

I write to comment on the exorbitant bus fare increases to take effect from 1st August 2010.

The interesting point is that it is a taste of things to come because it was a recommendation by Treasury and Resources‘ consultants Tribal Helm, who have argued it is an area of government waste.

It is also supported by the non-democratic Financial Transformation Executive, who like Tribal Helm, have a vested interest in such proposals being accepted.

As someone who has had a long history of advocating improved bus services at lower costs, I am dismayed at this backward step, and how little thought has been put into the consequences of this decision.

Putting public funds into the bus services is a decision which was not originally made purely on financial and related grounds, but for sound environmental reasons.

We in this Island, through our representatives, decided that we wanted to increase bus usage and decrease car usage by the provision of reliable, better and low cost bus services. We were achieving success with this policy.

Now, with little thought and nil consultation, the Environment Department risks jeopardising a reasonably well-thought-out policy and encouraging an anti-environmental policy of more car usage.

In the past any proposed increase in bus fares or changes in routes etc. would be subject to a public hearing before the Public Transport Licensing Authority. Often after listening to the verbal and written responses, the Authority would back down, or amend the original proposals. That was democracy in action.

Now, the Environment Department puts an advertisement in The Guernsey Press telling us what is going to happen and comments are simply invited. Hardly an encouragement to be able to influence a decision which has already been taken.

We are told that the increases will raise £400,000, but we are not told what will happen to this money, except that it is needed to “to cover the increased costs of running the service.” In other words, there is going to be no improvement in bus services, and this money will simply reduce the public subsidy and save the Department money. But I question the whole concept of saving money in this context because it is a false economy and is a policy of increased car usage.

There is also the issue of the visitors to Guernsey who have been told of the excellent value bus services, and who arrive here after 1st August and find they have been misled by Guernsey promotion, and that is not good for our image.

In contrast, there appears to have been no examination of the environmental and other benefits of an improved bus service, with lower fares, even fare-less (fare-less services are quicker because they don’t hold up traffic and don’t have waiting time due to passengers paying fares). There is no acceptance of the fact that the current service still needs vast improvement, needs to cover more of the Island and become more commuter friendly. There is no argument put forward to obtain this £400,000 (or more) from a small increase in petrol tax. Why is this whole subject narrowed down to the agenda which suits the Environment Department, rather than a broader one?

This matter brings into focus whether we should have our government departments deciding on economic proposals which affect the cost of living and people’s budgets, without referring such matters to the States for final decision making. This decision appears to have been made in isolation to the effects on economic policy, other government departments, and indeed the limited environmental policy we have. Hardly joined-up-government, yet this is a proposal firmly supported by Tribal Helm and the Financial Transformation Executive. This should be an early warning sign that the sooner these two bodies, who are further confusing an already confused government, are removed, the sooner we will have decision making based on facts, proper analysis, use of local expertise, and importantly, full public consultation. And we will save money instead of spending it on bureaucracy and expensive out-of-touch consultants.

anthonywebber (at) cwgsy.net

This letter to The Guernsey Press was published originally on 30 June 2010.

  1. No Comments

Have your say