Franchises to go?

30 July 2012

Franchising is a popular way to do things. McDonald’s, London buses and my local dry cleaner all seem to work well this way. So why not franchise buses (as trains largely are) in other parts of England? This debate has raged for some time. Plans to franchise buses are most advanced in the North East and West Yorkshire. South Yorkshire is trying a Voluntary Partnership first. Merseyside and the West Midlands seem more content with a partnership approach.

Passengers probably do not care much who runs their buses or how they are run. They want a safe, reliable, value for money service. Often the only way to find out if different systems work is to try them – trying to judge in advance is very difficult. A poorly specified, underfunded franchise could be far worse than having competition. Competition, where it exists, can produce a great passenger focus. There is no right answer.

We recently looked at the plans for a Voluntary Partnership in South Yorkshire. From our own Bus Passenger Survey and work on passengers’ priorities for improvement we extracted what we think passengers want. This was then matched against what is being proposed by the partnership – a good match. The devil will, of course, be in the detail. To see our response go to:

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