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Waste tip

etters

You report that Bus subsidies are wasted say MPs (NCE 15 September). Either the MPs misunderstand the position or have been misreported.

As your report states, outside London and Northern Ireland bus services were deregulated in 1986. In urban areas about 80% of bus services are commercial without any subsidy. The other 20% are tendered 'socially needed' subsidised services, wholly under the control of the passenger transport authority (PTA) and typically carrying about 5% of passengers.

The £25M a year quoted by Roger Jones of Greater Manchester PTA is for concessionary travel tickets for pensioners and the disabled.

This is a subsidy to the passenger. Bus companies are no better off when they carry fewer pensioners at full fares without concession tickets.

All bus services nationally get a fuel duty rebate to bring them into line with rail fuel costs, but this is not as generous as the zero duty for air services.

Until 1986 the PTAs ran bus services and presided over an average annual decline of 2% a year. This saw bus use drop by 75% from 1955. Use of regulated bus services in Northern Ireland (and the Republic) is declining even faster.

Did the MP's question the £1bn a year London bus subsidy, which achieved a growth of only 5.3%- Is this level of subsidy sustainable compared to the £65M pa from congestion charging?

Professor Lewis Lesley, technical director, TRAM Power, Liverpool L11 OEE

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