Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Bus Jams in Sheffield, July 1991.

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Claire Pendrous has been posting an amazing series of pictures of old British Buses on flickr. I left UK in 1988, so I did not see much of this myself first hand, except on brief trips home.

Mrs Thatcher regarded all forms of subsidy as some kind of sin. This included cross subsidy from busy routes to keep lightly loaded ones going. And the worst of all were the kind of subsidies from governments which “went straight into bus drivers’ pockets”. She was determined to both privatise the National Bus Company and force the sell off of municipal operations. Prof Christopher Foster from LSE scared her with his succinct account of what London was like in the days before London Transport, so while bus operations were contracted out, central control was maintained. But elsewhere in the country busy bus routes were fought over while low ridership rural routes were abandoned. County Councils could tender for subsidised socially essential services, but most preferred to keep the cost to property owners down (known in England as “the rates” – and later replaced by a simple poll tax or “community charge”) so the country bus almost vanished entirely.

This type of scene did not last long, as the competition drove weaker companies to the wall. After a few years, takeovers and consolidation greatly reduced the numbers of operators to a few large groups.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 26, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation

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