Mark Bradshaw, Labour’s architect of the plans to convert the Bristol and Bath Cycle Path into a rapid transit route, is very keen to play down any role First Bus – Bristol’s most hated firm – might have in the plans.
Bradshaw says in his press release, in a deliberate attempt to play down the political difficulties of the First Bus issue, “I want to make clear that no contracts have been awarded regarding the rapid transit operators.”
A perfectly true statement as far as it goes. However the Bristol Cycling Campaign have already discovered courtesy of a Freedom of Information request that there are at least two First employees – John Birtwhistle and Clive Bryant – on Bradshaw’s ‘Bus Rapid Transport Project Board’ who are responsible for developing the plans.
Widespread rumour also suggests that no other bus company will seriously compete for the contract because the major public transport companies allegedly have an informal deal where they carve up between them the different regions they are going to work in.
This seemed to be confirmed by a poster on The Blogger recently who described attending a transport consultation event where he was openly told by a council officer: “First and stagecoach have a gentleman’s agreement not to work on each others patch”.
Such a cartel between public transport companies is of course illegal. Which makes you wonder why our local government transport officers are glibly telling members of the public who walk in off the street about this arrangement rather than preparing a case on our behalf for the competition commission.
But then a local government officer – maybe looking to use their transport expertise to make that lucrative move into the private sector at a later date in their career – doesn’t want to be seen to be rocking the boat or upsetting potential employers do they?