The Anonymous Widower

A Radical Government Would Consider Making Bus Travel Free

The title of this post is taken from the sub-title of the first leading article in today’s Times.

This is the last paragraph.

This is an opportunity for the government to be bold and help those deprived northern areas that voted Conservative for the first time. It should raise spending on buses and force the mainly private companies to provide many more services and routes. It should also encourage them to use electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles. But if it really wants to encourage a better quality of life and improved economic prospects for the north and other regions, it should consider making bus journeys free. At present millions of elderly people and children benefit from free bus passes . Why not extend this to all? That would send a message that this really is a people’s government.

The Times has a point. In fact it has several.



December 18, 2019 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. That sounds like a Marxist policy that has just been rejected by the electorate.

    Comment by JohnC | December 18, 2019 | Reply

    • I felt that! But it’s well argued in The Times and in a prominent place in the newspaper.

      I’ve always felt that the bus model on large parts of the country is not fit for purpose and depends too much on 1950s thinking. Some radical ideas might be better.

      Comment by AnonW | December 18, 2019 | Reply

  2. It’s worth remembering that it was a radical Conservative Government under Mrs May with Nicholas Ridley as Transport Secretary who privatised bus services and except for London ( who fought off totally free enterprise privatisation) led to a system where coach companies ran bus services in rush hours creamed off profits and destroyed many bus services across the country.!

    Anyway it seems Borisbuses with their three door entry are already providing free services which TFL is having to combat by introducing front door entry only starting with route 8 !

    So if buses are free how do you decide what services are required and where and when to run them without a clever passenger counting system !

    Comment by Melvyn | December 18, 2019 | Reply

    • I felt the most interesting thing about this proposal was that a newspaper, which is right of centre proposed this. I think that we need more buses all over the country and on balance if linked to employment transport and housing hotspots, making them free might be a fixed cost way of providing the service. I know from local experience that good public transport gets more people into work and cuts crime. I also think it cuts carbon emissions.

      It’s a complicated many faceted calculation.

      I am old enough to remember Harold Wilson’s selective employment tax, which meant if you employed people in a service industry you paid more tax on each employee. Look it up and just see its effects. Free buses could be another fiscal lever that has a big effect.

      I have a feeling, that someone has done some detailed calculations for The Times!

      Comment by AnonW | December 18, 2019 | Reply

    • I meant Mrs Thatcher I was thinking Thatcher but it seems May came out !

      Comment by Melvyn | December 18, 2019 | Reply

      • Blame it on the spell- checker!

        Comment by AnonW | December 19, 2019

  3. The problem with granting free access (or low cost flat rate access) to any limited resource is excessive use: sometimes referred to as “tragedy of the commons” (not the house of commons).

    The same money can be spent subsidising more frequent reliable services..15 minute or less headway across a wider selection of stteets and routes, simplified fares, unified ticketing, free transfers as needed, coordinated scheduling with trains and coaches.

    People who can afford to pay will pay if service is better than their own car.

    Ridership grows, everyone happy.

    Comment by MilesT | December 18, 2019 | Reply

    • As I said in reply to another post, The Times seems to have got hold of some detailed coatings. Perhaps from someone at Cambridge, where the transport system is far better than many larger cities. It has to be, as the city is gummed with traffic.
      Mote too, that the article mentions battery and hydrogen power. The Times has been running a campaign for some months to get better air for all cities. Does free electric buses, congestion charge and modal change from car to bus have big effects on carbon and pollution emissions.
      The newspaper is certainly up to something and I’m going to go digging

      Comment by AnonW | December 18, 2019 | Reply

  4. Tough. They voted tory, so can’t complain if bus services in their rural community are cut further or prices increase. Torys have no mandate or obligation to help anyone with reducing public transport costs, they weren’t the party for that.

    Comment by Merry Christmas | December 18, 2019 | Reply

    • As the article said bus services don’t work and roads are getting more and more crowded and the air is getting more polluted, so something radical needs to be done. Remember that The Times is running a campaign for clean air!

      Comment by AnonW | December 18, 2019 | Reply

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