Dial-a-Loss

Over the past decade, Dial-a-Ride schemes across Bath and North East Somerset have done extraordinary damage to the bus network. These parasitic “charities” are stealing revenue from tax paying, licenced businesses and we’re supposed to think this is a good thing.

Take a look at the supported bus network in B&NES. Passenger numbers on less frequent, subsidised services have disappeared to almost nil in some cases. Buses which were carrying reasonable loads around suburban areas before Dial-a-Ride started are now on entirely unsustainable subsidy levels, propped up by various housing developments. I’ve previously written about the annihilation of the Keynsham town services by a combination of dreadful in-house operation by B&NES and huge funding for a competing Dial-a-Ride service.

But we mustn’t complain because the likes of Norton Radstock Dial-a-Ride are just a charity, providing travel for those who can’t use a scheduled bus service. Or those who choose not to use the scheduled bus service. Or anybody at all really, they’re not fussy. Here is a letter from the Midsomer Norton & Radstock Journal, which is a response to some recent moans regarding a mis-managed local bus service.

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Norton Radstock Dial-a-Ride operates three Mellor Bluebird minibuses and a taxi on an annual budget of £168k. These vehicles operate during office hours, Monday to Friday only and appear to spend most of their time parked outside the drivers’ homes. Almost £103,000 pounds of this income comes from B&NES, the same council which keeps cutting funding for scheduled bus services. This equates to a subsidy per passenger journey of around £10 per passenger journey. Bus services requiring this level of funding have never previously been tolerated by B&NES. The organisation receives some £55,000 per annum as “revenue” from passengers (who are required to pay fares, rather than being able to use their concessionary travel passes). The total of all other funding the organisation receives is around £10,000.

Keynsham Dial-a-Ride hoovers up a £75k annual grant from B&NES, along with £23k of concessionary travel and a similar sum for providing Home to School transport contracts[1], some £121k of funding from the council coffers. Between the two setups, over £220k is being spent every year on providing services which used to be performed adequately by local bus services, the likes of which we can now apparently not afford.

Make no mistake, these operations couldn’t exist without being bankrolled by B&NES and the council seem to have no concerns that local, tax paying, staff employing businesses are being pushed off the road by these “charities”.

Perhaps in an era where B&NES are starting to struggle to cover some bus service contracts, these operators should start pulling their weight, providing uneconomical weekend and evening services, if they’re so keen to be hoovering up the council’s funding for such things whilst being funded to duplicate services which for the most part are already available?

[1] One hopes that Keynsham Dial-a-Ride drivers all hold full D or D1 driving licences (not restricted to non hire-and-reward) and driver CPC cards, as is required. I wouldn’t like to think they were operating illegally.

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