David Leeder provided the Scottish Region's February meeting in Glasgow with a unique insight into the plans for future development of bus operations in the UK. He began by outlining the background to the current position and looked at Government and Investor objectives that include mode shift, social inclusion and environmental factors.
First's UK Bus Director, David Leeder.
© John G. Fender 2003
There has been passenger growth, more people are travelling and in London this has been as much as 30%. There has been growth in such areas as Edinburgh and Oxford, and this is significant when seen against a backdrop of decline in bus travel since the 1950's. He said that actual decline has ended and there is now growth in the market.
Mr. Leeder then looked at the costs facing bus operators and pointed out that labour is some 70% of the total costs. The recent rise in National Insurance contributions amounted to another 1 - 2 % and pension funding is also a major consideration. With regard to vehicles, he said that DDA compliance was another cost in that new vehicles were much more expensive. Additionally the effects of Euro 2 and Euro 3 standards were being felt. Congestion is one area that increases costs and reduced efficiency. These cost increases have to be funded by more revenue.
Mr. Leeder pointed out that at the same time as the cost of bus operation was increasing, the cost of motoring was decreasing in real terms. Government policy seemed to be contradictory with regard to the scrapping of the fuel duty escalator but at the same time not increasing fuel duty rebate for bus operators. The Government has also adopted a "wait and see" approach with regard congestion charging, preferring to let the London scheme be introduced before making any decisions.
Turning to the development of bus services, Mr. Leeder showed the work being undertaken on the "Yorkshire Showcase" project and illustrated how geodemographic information is being used to assist in planning networks. He looked at the successful "Overground" initiative, pioneered in Glasgow and now being introduced around the country. This has a number of core routes, operating on a high frequency and with simplified routes.
In Glasgow, there is further opportunity for growth, and a partnership approach with PTE's and Councils is seen as a way forward. There will be further investment in the fleet and the development of Quality Bus corridors and Park and Ride Schemes. Other innovations will include smart cards, better passenger information and CCTV. The evening concluded with a lively question and answer session during which Mr Leeder ably dealt with many questions.
Report by John Fender.
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