Bus stop – Wet day

23 Sep

I am getting really fed up with central Government being unable to get their head round what is happening in places like Cornwall. Just on the off chance that somebody from Westminster may hit upon what I am writing I will spell it out nice and clearly for them.

Cornwall is a long thin peninsular, and historically was composed of a series of small settlements either built to the side of the central granite ridge, at the head or mouth of short rivers, or out in the middle of the moor. Therefore these settlements were isolated. At various times during the past, when goods and materials either came or went form Cornwall, they often did so by sea or by a track along the spine road that is now the A30. All the little settlements fed into the ports or the spine road by cart tracks.

Now that much of the income of the Cornish is via the tourist industry or the export of food items, easy transport for people and goods is essential for the Cornish economy. Not only that but the tourist attractions and small manufacturing businesses need people to run them. They often cannot afford to live in the places where they work. Similarly it is well known that Cornwall has about the lowest wages in the UK and consequently the minimum wage workers cannot afford to buy and run a car. In recent years the mild climate has caused a considerable number of elderly people to come to Cornwall to retire. Quite a lot of them are now too old to drive, but still want to be independent and do their own shopping. They also have a greater need than most to access the Post Office, the Doctor’s surgery and the Hospital.

The one thing that all of this requires is a decent reliable and inexpensive Public Transport System. So what do the Government do? Cut the subsidy for buses. Now it just so happens that the arithmetic of fare subsidy, benefits routes where there are short distances between stops, (because it is based on a percentage of the full fare). It also benefits routes where as well as a number of passengers on bus passes, there are a considerable number paying the full fare to make it economical for the bus company. Both of these scenarios apply in London. But they do not apply in Cornwall.

As we have recently seen, the result of cutting the subsidy is that bus operators do not want to tender for routes where they will not make a profit from customers paying the full fare. The profitable routes are usually those running into Truro or Camborne, and this means that the ones being axed are the really rural ones such as Penwith and North Cornwall. Here there is no alternative and people are now stranded in their own village.

There is an answer to this. Cornwall Council should take over as the Transport Authority. This would mean that they were in overall charge of the routes, timetables, fare policies and subsidy allocation. There would be no independent operators competing for the same route or suddenly altering timetables or stops, What would be sub-contracted would be the provision and maintenance of buses and the supply of drivers. Before everybody throws up their hands and says it won’t work, just pause for a moment and consider the Threemilestone to Truro Park and Ride scheme. This is probably the most efficient, clean, well maintained and on time bus service in Cornwall. It is run by Cornwall Council on exactly the model I have described.

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