In case you missed it, Travel West Midlands (now part of National Express) have put up the bus fairs in the West Midlands yet again. Here's a letter I dashed off to one of my local councillors, Timothy Huxtable in anger.
Dear Councillor Huxtable,
I'm writing to express my dismay at yet further price hikes on Travel West
Midlands buses as of June 2010. Particularly, I note that there is an 80p rise
in the cost of an evening saver ticket, from £2.20 to £3.00.
From memory, in 2005 the cost of a standard single ticket was just £1. Now it's
£1.70. This is way way above the level of inflation.
Can I ask if the Council or you could comment on this please? Are these fare
hikes to continue as they have done in the last few years? I know that the buses
are now run by a private company, but they are still a public service and this
Does the Council have a vision for what bus transport should be in Birmingham,
or is the plan just to sit by and wait until it's no longer viable?
I'd also like to point out the irony that this is announced just a few days
before the Birmingham Climate Change Festival. I wonder how much more CO2 will
be chucked out onto Birmingham's streets as a result of people driving more? I
know I certainly will be. This is a real shame.
UPDATE: Within two hours of my email, Councillor Huxtable got back to me. Here's his response.
Dear Mr Lewis
Thank you very much for your email regarding bus fares.
As you comment, NXWM are a private company and hold a virtual monopoly in terms of bus travel in the B'ham area.
I am more than happy to raise this issue with representatives of NXWM next time I meet up with them and indeed would be happy to inform you of when the next Transport Users Forum (a public meeting) meets, where NXWM representatives will be present (this meeting rotates around the City).
There has been recent rises in NXWM patronage, but mainly from concessionary passes (over 60's) and season ticket holders, whose prices rises, I understand, have been kept below inflation.
This would appear to be a deliberate policy of NXWM and the losers have been those who purchase tickets on the bus - who have suffered (substantially) above inflation price rises. I would imagine this is a policy decision to "persuade" more people to buy season tickets.
I am also sure NXWM would also state their fuel costs and staff costs have also risen recently.
(Please note I am NOT defending their price rises, merely explaining the reasoning behind their price increases from what they have told me).
The City Council does indeed have a vision for increasing public transport usage but requires partners to work with us (regarding bus fares, bus routes etc). It makes no commercial sense for NXWM to price people off the buses and we have made this point to them on many occasions. I am sure the City Council will continue to make this point to them.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding this matter.
I think I might go along to one of these user forums. But as he quite rightly points out, this is largely due to the monopoly held by National Express. Now, who's fault is that and can it be changed?