BRT: York notes

Private Eye’s ‘Dr B Ching’ has been taking a look at First Group’s ftr (which stands for “future” public transport!) bendy buses that have been operating in York since 2006.

The system is very similar to the bendy bus BRT scheme proposed for Bristol, and we learn that First Group boss, the maybe/maybe not Labour donor, Moir Lockhead insisted in 2005 that, “ftr is the perfect solution for local authorities in the battle against congestion.”

Alas, now York City Council reveals that there’s been a 1.9% drop in bus use between 2006-07 and 2007-08 – in the time, in fact, since “the perfect solution” got underway.

Satisfaction rates among the public have fallen too. In 2003-04 71% were satisfied with their bus service in York. Today that figure is just 68% while there’s also been huge amounts of complaints about ticketing and delays.

Fans of open government will no doubt be interested to learn too that the architects of this cut-price public transport tripe – First Group boss Lockhead and, then, Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling – met to specifically discuss ftr in October 2005.

But alas we shall never know what was said as department of Transport officials say “no notes were produced” of this meeting.

Nice to see such transparency and openess between big business and government around our future transport needs isn’t it?

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72 Responses to BRT: York notes

  1. Martyn Whitelock says:

    BB – didn’t quite catch that… did you say ‘bendy’ or ‘trendy’? – LOL!

    It is now very clear the British public (let alone us poor Bristolians) will never achieve anything like the stylish transport systems they have on the Continent.

    Am I missing something? Isn’t this just two buses joined together, causing even more of an obstacle for our hailed Cycling Deonstration City cyclists? There are never many passengers on one bus because it is still economically cheaper to own a car and use a bicycle to ensure you reach your destination at the time you intended.

  2. Bluebaldee says:

    BRT is a total pile of crap.

    Bristol City Council and the West of England Partnership are trying to sell this cobblers as some kind of panacea for our transport woes or as an alternative to the shelved tram when in fact they’re just ordinary First buses, pimped up.

    Incredibly, BCC and the WEP want to introduce CONgestion Charging on the back of three BRT routes and a couple of Park and Rides as outlined here:

    The transport chaos and punitive expense that this will inflict on Bristolians just doesn’t bear thinking about.

    One of the reasons why ftr has been so unpopular in York was the eye-watering 20% hike in ticket prices that First imposed earlier this year – if they did this in York then what would we get in Bristol – 30%, 40%?

    In addition, their much trumpeted “off bus ticketing” machines simply didn’t work, meaning that getting punters on the damn things was no quicker than an ordinary vehicle.

    Only the terminally cretinous inhabitants of the Council House and Wilder Street are daft enough to want to base a public transport system on these First Group monstrosities. There are one or two examples running elsewhere (Leeds, Luton Airport) but no other city is planning to roll them out as a substitute for a tram network.

    Leeds looked at this option and then rapidly saw sense and is instead going for a network of electric trolley buses. Every other major city in England has either a tram network, Metro or heavy rail (Merseyrail).

    I find it mind boggling that the likes of Mark Bradshaw, Helen Holland, David Bishop and Colin Knight are determined to fly in the face of all this evidence and still want to base our transport system on First’s discredited ftr buses.

    Roll on the next elections when we can eject these incompetent bastards and at long, long last try to formulate a plan for the decent public transport system that our city wants and so desperately needs.

  3. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Bluebaldie – I totally agree and so do many others – this is a complete and utter sham! It would be far preferable (and sustainable) to see pedestrians and cyclists travelling alongside the New Cut and throughout the city rather than a hideous, giant, purple, caterpillar/turd-like thing! I can think of many cities which have tram systems that are in harmony with the city, mainly because these cities had the sense to retain them! (eg. Melbourne and Amsterdam).

    Besides, the Council are lacking basic common sense. These longer vehicles may work on the straighter and more spacious road networks in Continental Europe but they are not appropriate for Bristol’s tight geography. Also, who wants to see the Prince Street Bridge developed for this. Is this bus-thing more important than an historic landmark which directly adds to the character of the docks?

    Yes, roll on the next elections but let’s see some real clear vision (backed by action) from the LibDems and maybe they could convert some more non-partisans such as myself.

  4. Chris Hutt says:

    Whoever takes power next June will confront the same problem, namely that the people want to have their cake and eat it.

    The people appear to want a prestigious new tram system but don’t want to (can’t?) pay for it nor will they accept the level of restraint on the use of cars necessary to make it work. How can anyone square that circle?

  5. Ella says:

    Bendy buses are excellent. I live in London and wish all buses were bendy buses. However I think exactly the same thing about “Bristol’s tight geography” and can only imagine the havok of them attempting to turn corners in most places in Bristol.

  6. TonyD says:

    I have already posted this elsewhere but….

    The more I read about the Bus Rapid Transit programme, the more I feel that the decision-makers have fallen into the same trap that many of us do – concentrating on a product’s price rather than what it is actually capable of providing. Irrespective of whether the BRT scheme for Ashton Vale actually comes in at £20 million, £30 million or £50 million, if it doesn’t attract a massive increase in usage away from the car then it is a failure and therefore too expensive – it is like boasting about how you got your concert tickets cheap only to get turned away at the concert because they are fake. However much you try to dress BRT up to look like environmentally-friendly, electrically-powered, clean, efficient and technologically advanced rail-based transit, it is still a bus. If it looks like a bus, sounds like a bus, smells like a bus – it is a bus, and buses just aren’t “sexy” enough to attract large enough numbers away from the addictive attractions of the private car.

    The “Showcase” bus routes already offer many of the improvements associated with BRT – “state of the art” buses, better quality bus stops, segregated routes along much of the network, real-time information displays and so on. They have been proclaimed a massive success with a 12% increase in usage on the routes introduced. It is difficult to see BRT being so different from “Showcase” that it will achieve an increase in usage much above that 12%. A brief discussion with the potential users – the target market – of this scheme should be enough to demonstrate this – I no longer live in south Bristol but I still have many family and friends in the area and, although it is obviously subjective, my own opinion based on their informal feedback is that it is unlikely to attract more than 20% increase in usage and certainly not the 50% anticipated in the BRT documentation.

    20% increase in usage might sound like a success story – that is, until we look back at the Greater Bristol Transport Study itself (from whence the Bus-based transit scheme originated). The GBTS forecast that between 2003 and 2016, the number of car trips in the Greater Bristol area during the Peak morning rush-hour would rise by 18%. That means an increase of over 26,000 car trips. A 20% increase in bus-usage, even if replicated across every single route would, based on the 2003 figures quoted in the GBSTS, take just 2,720 cars off the road (and that’s assuming that the increased usage is all down to car drivers and doesn’t include people switching from other transport modes). So the number of cars will only increase by 16%, yippee, give the BRT guys an award!

    The truth is, that to even keep the number of cars on the road down to the, already unacceptable, level it is today, we need to increase public transport usage across the board by about 133%, and we need somewhere in the region of a 500% increase to reduce car levels down to the sort of numbers that the really great European cities are able to operate with. Bus-based systems simply can’t do it, certainly not diesel buses – rail based transport on the other hand, has shown that it can, as is shown by Karlsruhe where the use of tramtrains has shown a 600% rise in their usage.

    What seems to be lacking is the vision needed to look beyond buses towards what the future holds – to recognise that today’s “infant” or “unproven in the UK” technologies may hold the key to tomorrow’s Bristol transport infrastructure.

    Chris, I am not aware of people in the area having actually being asked if they are willing to pay for LRT, UltraLRT, or Tramtrain – what we were offered was BRT, not a list of options.
    I would suggest that for those deeply attached to their private car any price would be too high whilst those who don’t have access to a car at all (about a quarter of all Bristol houselholds) might feel differently. I doubt that anybody is willing to pay for something that appears to be designed to simply allow First Bus to meet their timetable.

  7. Des Bowring says:

    Buses are sexy. More please.

  8. Chris Hutt says:

    TonyD “Chris, I am not aware of people in the area having actually being asked if they are willing to pay for LRT, UltraLRT, or Tramtrain..”

    Most people talking about their expectations for public transport say it must be cheap, by which they mean cheap compared to existing bus fares. Only buses can deliver ‘cheap’ public transport.

    The modes you suggest have huge capital costs that would need to be serviced and repaid, even if their operating costs were as low as buses. Such capital intensive modes would require very high levels of patronage which would only be achievable on the back of draconian restraint on car use, which people will not vote for.

    As for the projections in the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study (GBSTS), they’re junk now since they were based on optimistic growth projections and congestion charging, neither of which are going to happen.

  9. Sicko Spotter says:

    “Buses are sexy. More please.”

    You are a very sick man!

  10. Bluebaldee says:

    BRT simply doesn’t have the capacity to perform as a mass transit system. Despite these buses being “bendy”, their internal layout means that they can transport just a few more people than a conventional bus. First is the only company in the UK going down the BRT route – Stagecoach, Arriva etc don’t want to know and are instead concentrating on renewing their conventional bus fleets.

    Chris, yes a tram will be fairly expensive, but not prohibitively so – most other major British cities and virtually all Western European cities of a similar size to Bristol have managed it. For what they are ie, a diesel bus with bodykit, BRT is an extremely costly option and the vehicles themselves will need replacing more frequently than trams, so in the long run there really isn’t much in it between the two.

    Buses are certainly not a “cheap option” in Bristol – they’re pretty damn expensive and crucially they’re not getting people out of their cars which is surely the litmus test of effectiveness. I really do think that you underestimate Bristolians. We’ve been crying out for a decent public transport network for decades now. If the DfT, BCC and WEP were to bite the bullet and invest in a wholly-segregated, tram-based transit system, integrated with a rejuvenated heavy rail network and our local buses, with good provision for walking and cycling then I think that a majority of Bristolians would vote for some form of demand management as a price to pay for all this. I know I would. A few years ago their was a consultation held whereupon Bristolians were asked to choose one of three options – A, Transport investment to remain the same, B, Moderate investment and C, Heavy investment allied to demand management. 60% chose Option C. I don’t think that most of these respondents thought that heavy investment would amount to more First buses, with a bit of bodykit.

    Many people can see straight through the BRT proposals – they’re simply the latest in a long line of public transport fudges and disappointments foisted on us.

    Chris, you are remarkably fatalistic about alleviating congestion and improving public transport in Bristol. If we were the only city trying to introduce a decent integrated mass transit system then I might share your pessimism, but we’re not, in fact we’re almost unique in not having one – most other cities have managed it.

    Now is the perfect time to grasp the nettle. Now that Manchester have declined the TIF money and the Government have declared that they want to spend their way out of the recession and are accelerating capital projects, Bristol should take advantage of the cash sloshing around and come up with plans for a first class transit system. Once this is up and running, by all means inflict some kind of demand management on those who are still reluctant to leave their cars at home.

    The current proposals must be dumped before we spend hundreds of millions on something that’s just not going to work.

  11. I’m mostly with Bluebaldee on this one. Well said mate!

  12. Chris Hutt says:

    “Chris, yes a tram will be fairly expensive, but not prohibitively so – most other major British cities and virtually all Western European cities of a similar size to Bristol have managed it.”

    But not without massive subsidy from taxpayers. A subsidy does not make things cost less, it merely creates the illusion of cheapness in the minds of the financially illiterate.

    Buses have the potential to be cheaper than they currently are in Bristol, but that requires getting a lot more people using them which in turn depends on restraining the use of competing modes like bicycles and cars. Hence the BRT proposals to take over cycleways.

    “If the DfT, BCC and WEP were to bite the bullet and invest in a wholly-segregated, tram-based transit system, integrated with a rejuvenated heavy rail network and our local buses, with good provision for walking and cycling then I think that a majority of Bristolians would vote for some form of demand management as a price to pay for all this.”

    But the people of Manchester just voted resoundingly against a similar package. Why do you think a vote would go differently in Bristol?

    Congestion is a self-regulating mechanism. As it gets worse so people are deterred from increased travel (and vice versa). To eliminate congestion you must introduce a more powerful deterrent to car use such as a congestion charge, but it would have to be set at a high enough level to act as a stronger deterrent than congestion itself.

  13. Bluebaldee says:

    Chris, what’s wrong with a subsidy? Surely an injection of taxpayer’s cash is worth it to reduce congestion, improve air quality and public transport? Subsidy clearly works on the Continent. This is reflected in higher patronage of transit systems, less congestion and cleaner air – surely a good return for the public investment.

    So many other things are subsidised out of tax these days, so why not public transport? In fact, the buses in Bristol and the rest of the UK are already subsidised in the form of a rebate on the tax paid on fuel by the bus operators. Unfortunately in Bristol most of this goes straight to First’s shareholders rather than towards cheaper fares so perhaps tighter regulation is required as well.

    There are a number of important differences between my suggested solution and the package recently rejected by Manchester.

    Firstly, the size of the charging zone was massive in Manchester – everywhere within the M60. The equivalent in Bristol would be much smaller.

    Secondly, Manchester already has a half-decent, multi-modal transport system with some extensions to the Metrolink tram system already agreed and not dependant on the TiF money, so maybe Mancunians thought “why should we pay for something we’ve already got?”
    Bristol, by common consent, has a rubbish transport system and I’m pretty certain that many Bristolians would welcome genuine improvements with open arms, and be prepared to pay for them.

    Thirdly, the Bristol demographic includes a high proportion of citizens who like to think of themselves as “Green” or have Green-leaning opinions – this would make it easier to get real transport improvements through a Congestion Charging referendum.

    You say that congestion is a self-regulating mechanism which is true, however, people still have to get to work. They’re not simply going to stay at home because it takes 20 minutes longer to get to work – that’s not a choice most people have.

    “To eliminate congestion you must introduce a more powerful deterrent to car use such as a congestion charge, but it would have to be set at a high enough level to act as a stronger deterrent than congestion itself.”

    Well, you’ll never “eliminate” congestion – you can only reduce it. Simply setting a Congestion Charge at a very high level is clearly not an option as people still need to get to work or go about their daily business. And if you did that, Bristol’s public transport system as it is now or with the BRT proposals would simply collapse as it doesn’t have the capacity to absorb the tens of thousands of motorists who’d have to leave their cars at home.

    Your proposal would either lead to chaos or plunge thousands into debt – hardly a workable solution.

  14. TonyD says:

    Steer Davis Gleaves (SDG), the consultants working on Bristol’s BRT project also produced a report for the Public Transport Executive Group (an organisation co-ordination information and exchange between the metropolitan areas) back in 2005. In that report they gave operating costs per passenger km of 2.5p-5.0p for Busways, and 1p-2.1p for Tram. This implies that rail-based transit is cheaper to operate than bus-based. Strangely enough given that SDG is pushing BRT as a system that will meet the needs of a “step-change in the provision of public transport” (Greater Bristol: Public Transport Options, Steer Davies Gleave, January 2007, page 17) that in the report for the PTEG they comment “it is not possible to achieve the desired step-change in quality and capacity required in major corridors with bus-based modes” (What Light Rail Can Do For Cities, Steer Davies Gleave, February 2005).

    As far as capital costs are concerned, SDG quote anywhere between £1m-£20m for BRT, and £15m-£20m for LRT in the PTEG report.

    Like Bluebaldee says, what’s wrong with a subsidy? The Victoria Transport Policy Institute in British Columbia concluded that “residents of cities with high-quality Rail Transit systems pay approximately $100 annually per capita in additional transit subsidies, and save approximately $500 annually per capita in direct consumer transportation (automobile and transit) expenditures, indicating a high return on investment.”

    In addition there are costs recovered from the reduction in the effects of pollution, traffic congestion, road traffic accidents and structural damage caused by cars.

    However, the greatest benefit was the increase in land values for development sites close to the rail transit route. The government is about to introduce a British version of Tax Incremental Funding, which will allow local authorities to leveage the future value of development land to invest in infrastructure. Perhaps this may be a source for funding some of the capital costs?

  15. Dona Qixota says:

    “The government is about to introduce a British version of Tax Incremental Funding, which will allow local authorities to leverage the future value of development land ”

    What is is with modern generations that, rather than pay properly for what we want, or save up, we’re always sliding down into debt, or – more irresponsible still – loading our children and grand-children with debts without them having any say in the matter?

    And doesn’t TIF have other drawbacks too?

  16. Chris Hutt says:

    “What’s wrong with subsidy?”

    What’s right with subsidy? Subsidies causes shortages which cause queues! They distort the market and lead to inefficiency.

    Take bread for example. Bread is good, so let’s subsidise it. Then people buy more of it (and waste more of it) until the supply can’t meet the ‘demand’, so you get shortages and bread queues. Exactly what happens in command economies like those in eastern Europe that all collapsed so spectacularly 20 years ago.

    Take on-street parking. In the inner city that’s a valuable commodity but the council subsidise it and allow it to be used without charge (or for a nominal £30 p.a. under RPS proposals). So demand exceeds supply and people drive around and around searching for a place to park (effectively queuing). An efficient use of resources?

    Take road space. Again at peak times a valuable resource but again our council subsidises it and allows it to be used free of charge. So demand exceeds supply and we get congestion. Yes, the very thing that you naively presume to solve with subsidies is actually caused by subsidies.

    The fundamental problem we have is that we travel too much. We suffer from ‘hypermobility’ as John Adams puts it. This problem is caused by subsidies, yet you propose to add more subsidies to make travel even cheaper and so exacerbate the problem.

    What we need to do is remove the existing subsidies, not add to them. Let’s get hard-core travelers to pay their real costs and stop freeloading on the backs of those of us who travel only modestly. They should start paying for their infrastructure and the pollution they cause.

  17. Factoid says:

    what we need is, like, tandems, but for the 50 people you get on a bus. We could call it a ftr tandem. And, Er, charge people loads to go on it. Job done.

  18. thebristolblogger says:

    Chris, your belief in the unerring reliability of the hidden hand of the market has taken a bit of battering of late.

    Most markets involve subsidies in reality. Just look at those paragons of the current free market consensus, the international money markets and financial services. The subsidies being thrown at them to keep them functioning – and our economy alive – are eye-wateringly large.

    Even prior to this, they were being subsidised through tax breaks and deregulatory practices.

    I’m also not sure about your economics on shortages. Shortages are caused by scarcity. Command economies and free market economies are different means of resolving the problem of scarcity. They are effects not causes.

  19. Chris Hutt says:

    Of course there are all sorts of subsidies (hidden and otherwise) distorting the market, but is that a reason for having more of them?

    If you take that approach to its logical conclusion then you end up subsidising practically everything which just makes consuming in general artificial cheap, so encouraging people to consume more.

    And the things that get overlooked in the subsidy handouts end up becoming artificially expensive. Two examples would be walking and cycling. Yes, I know these modes get free use of the infrastructure and so are already subsidised, but not nearly as much as motorised modes.

    If public transport were heavily subsidised as is proposed then walking and cycling would appear less cheap (and so comparatively more expensive). So people would switch from walking and cycling to public transport in response to a subsidy, so increasing pollution and their carbon footprint.

    And what about people who’ve arranged their lives to minimise the need to travel? Perhaps they have chosen to live near where they work or to work at home, or to forgo recreational travel. Why should they have to pay more tax to subsidise those who have chosen to live and work far apart or who chose to indulge in a lot of recreational travel?

    Subsidies compound the problems rather than resolve them and are anti-environmental.

  20. TonyD says:


    I have much sympathy for your viewpoint but feel you are falling into the trap of imagining that everybody has complete freedom of choice in their travel patterns. I gave up my car eight years ago, and thus all my travel is walking, cycling or public transport. I live in a private rented house in a dormitory town in South Gloucestershire but work in central Bristol (hence the need for public transport – although if there were some facility for shower and changing facilities I would probably cycle – but at 44 and “big-boned”, Lycra is not an option). My wife works locally and my daughter walks to the local school, so we have minimised our own travel needs as much as possible. In an ideal situation there would be a job in my local town that I was capable of performing (or learning to perform) that would eliminate the need for me to travel into Bristol but, unless there is a fundamental change in the structure of my local town which involves some combination of demolishing houses and replacing them with workspaces it is impossible for everybody who lives here to also be able to work here. Even if that happened I would still have some need to travel, as being Hartcliffe born and bred, my family almost all live in South Bristol and I still try to maintain some physical contact. I suppose the answer to that would have been to have remained in Hartcliffe with the limited opportunities available in the 80’s – that, further, everbody should stay in their own community and not move outside it – unfortunately that sounds to me dangerously close to the views of a certain extreme party which I am certain neither of us have any sympathy with.

    You are absolutely right that subsidies may have compounded the problems but that is because the wrong subsidies have been used. As an analogy, drugs like cocaine, heroin, etc cause massive problems but that does not mean that drugs like pennicilin, aspirin, etc should be outlawed. In the same way grouping all subsidies into one group and labelling them “bad” is simplistic and ignores the real world. If we could turn back time, and remove all subsidies (including the massive ones in favour of car transport) and then charge for each mode of transport based on their real cost (i.e including pollution costs, health costs, built environment costs and so on), we wouldn’t need to subsidise public transport. However, back in the real world where your belief is that we won’t even be able to vote in a congestion charge (let alone full costings for the effect of motor vehicles), we do need to subsidise – simply to address the imbalance caused by the “free ride” that private motor transport receives.

  21. Bluebaldee says:


    To be honest I have nowhere near your apparent knowledge of economics and the market. However, I do have a very good pair of eyes and what they tell me when I visit (or live in) cities such as Paris, Bordeaux and Hannover is that their public transport systems are well-used, they have less vehicular congestion and a resulting better quality of civic life. Regardless of the economic cost from the subsidy, the outcomes are desirable.

    The market is there to serve humanity, not vice versa.

    “If public transport were heavily subsidised as is proposed then walking and cycling would appear less cheap (and so comparatively more expensive). So people would switch from walking and cycling to public transport in response to a subsidy, so increasing pollution and their carbon footprint.”

    In your market-led analysis of public transport subsidy you completely forget to factor human choice into the equation. Many, many people would prefer to cycle or walk regardless of the cost of public transport, because they enjoy doing it. A couple of years ago I lived a 25 minute walk from work. There was a bus stop 100m from my house, yet I never took the bus, even in miserable weather. That’s because I really enjoyed the stroll into work – it woke me up and I loved walking along the Harbourside in the early morning. Even if the bus fare was a flat quid, I’d still walk.

    As I’m sure you know, many people cycle because they love cycling, even if you get drenched now and then. There are many who wouldn’t dream of getting on a bus/tram/pimped up bus even if it was £1 because they get more enjoyment from cycling.

    Yes, we do suffer from hypermobility and people travel too much but what’s your solution to this? To reduce the need to travel by all living within a short distance of employment/services/friends/family would require social and civil re-engineering on a colossal scale. We’re stuck with what we’ve got for at least a generation so we need solutions that will work in the real world, not some imagined sedentary Utopia.

    You can rail against the perceived injustice of public transport subsidies until you’re blue in the face, but if they work elsewhere, ie, on the Continent, then let’s give them a try here.

    It’s got to be a better option than the awful current situation where the only winners are First’s shareholders and the private motorist.

  22. TBB says:


    You seem to be characterising any taxation expenditure as a ‘subsidy’ that somehow prevent markets functioning properly. Taxation expenditure is just a means of people acting collectively in the market.

    There’s nothing in the principle of free markets that says people can’t act collectively in them or that calls such actions subsidies. For instance a plc is a group of people acting collectively in the market. In economic terms there’s no difference between a plc raising shareholder capital and spending it in the market and a government raising taxes and spending it in the market.

    The logic of your argument is that any investment on the basis of collective action is a subsidy.

    If collective action is to be discouraged as a market distorting subsidy there would be no investment in infrastructure at all and very little other investment either, unless it comes entirely from market non-distorting individuals presumably?

    Or is only government collective action a problem and anti-environmental?

  23. TonyD says:


    Merry Xmas,

    we are not picking on you, honest!

  24. Des Bowring says:

    If you go to the bus station at 10am any weekday there are about a million pensioners getting on the Weston bus. Fantastic – they go free because the buses are subsidised.

    Anyone who would deny them the chance to have a free day out is hardly full of the Christmas spirit.

    Subsidise the buses every time.

  25. Des Bowring says:

    Sicko Spotter

    Is that ‘sick’ as in ‘good’ or ‘cool’ or ‘sick’ as in sick bastard who needs locking up?

    I fear it may be the latter.

  26. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Chris – Hopefully, when Capitalism and its Consumerism nemesis crumbles that circle could be squared by a different economic structure and national mindset. hmmm… I wonder?

  27. Sicko Spotter says:

    “Is that ’sick’ as in ‘good’ or ‘cool’ or ’sick’ as in sick bastard who needs locking up?”

    That all depends on whether the buses like what you do to their exhaust pipes or not… and on whether or not you let me take photos.

  28. SteveL says:

    If subsidised means “provide space for free” then walking, driving and cycling are all subsidised, because we get free space. Cars do pay per km in central taxes, whereas you only pay when walking if you are using your mobile at the same time, hence paying VAT on the call charges. There’s always been that odd situation where road building is “investment”, paying for trains is “subsidy”.

    FirstBus already gets money from the council; the BRT routes will only come with lots of central govt cash (TIF?). Why don’t they go the full way and do Tram? I don’t know. I think in years to come it will be regretted, just as the “investment” in the centre is viewed as a waste given the alternatives.

  29. thebristolblogger says:

    If subsidised means “provide space for free” then walking, driving and cycling are all subsidised, because we get free space.

    Of course, none of it is ‘free’. It’s free at the point of use, which is slightly different.

    There’s always been that odd situation where road building is “investment”, paying for trains is “subsidy”.

    Absolutely. Subsidy (at least as far as infrastructure investment is concerned) is a pejorative term for investment.

  30. CP says:

    Whatever happened to Bluebaldee’s last three (extraordinary) posts?

  31. Chris Hutt says:

    Let me suggest a useful distinction between investment and subsidy in this context.

    An investment is made in the expectation of a ‘return’ or benefit accruing to the investor whereas a subsidy would be an investment made without the expectation of a return accruing to the investor, the benefit going elsewhere.

    If the investor is an agency acting on behalf of all the people (e.g. what Bristol City Council should be in principle) then the benefit should accrue to all the people. If a public investment in say a tram system resulted in a return that benefited all the people then that might be considered a justifiable investment.

    But what if the investment benefits one section of ‘the people’ more than another? In this context we are talking about investments in transport infrastructure that will benefit those who travel more, particularly those who commute more and further, than others. That means that those who travel and commute less are being obliged to invest to benefit those who travel and commute more. That surely qualifies as a subsidy.

    What’s more, it’s a subsidy that encourages travel and longer distance commuting using motorised modes, so increasing outputs of CO2 and other pollutants. Travel and commuting from the suburbs and dormitory towns degrades the quality of life of those living in the inner city, the ones who have little need for the investment in public transport infrastructure in the first place.

    Whether you call such investment a subsidy or not doesn’t really much matter, providing it is understood what the effect of such investment/subsidy is and who are the winners and losers. In the case of investment in transport infrastructure the environment is always the loser.

  32. Bluebaldee says:

    “But what if the investment benefits one section of ‘the people’ more than another? In this context we are talking about investments in transport infrastructure that will benefit those who travel more, particularly those who commute more and further, than others. That means that those who travel and commute less are being obliged to invest to benefit those who travel and commute more.”

    If you’re saying that this is a bad thing, then the whole basis of civil society needs to change – and change for the worse.

    Expanding your arguement to other areas of life would mean that those who get ill, or are born with a disability are receiving an unfair subsidy from the rest of us healthy types as they require more input from the NHS. Indeed, the NHS should be dismantled and the sick made to pay for their treatment if we follow your arguement through to its conclusion.

    Those that don’t have children are subsidising those that do through investment in educational provision and Child Benefit.

    Younger people are subsidising the elderly through Winter Fuel Payments and free TV Licenses.

    Etc, etc…….

    There will always be “winners and losers” – sections of society that benefit more from a particular investment or subsidy. I don’t begrudge for one minute my taxes going to subsidise others. It’s the basis of our society, from which we have all benefitted.

    Chris, your free market, laissez faire approach would make for a horrible world where only the rich and powerful have a decent life whilst the vast majority of us live lives that are nasty, brutal and short. We left that behind generations ago.

    “What’s more, it’s a subsidy that encourages travel and longer distance commuting using motorised modes, so increasing outputs of CO2 and other pollutants. ”

    No it doesn’t. Investment in public transport encourages people to shift from one mode of transport, the car, onto another mode, mass transit – thereby reducing outputs of CO2 and other pollutants. Long distance commuting is already a fact of life – investment in public transport wouldn’t encourage it, it would simply ameliorate its polluting effects.

    “Travel and commuting from the suburbs and dormitory towns degrades the quality of life of those living in the inner city, the ones who have little need for the investment in public transport infrastructure in the first place. ”

    Are you saying that people living in the inner city have little need or desire to use public transport? That’s just not the case. They may well have a range of services nearer by, but they still have to get to them and they still have friends and family to visit. In fact, those in the inner city are less likely to either own a car, or live in a multi-vehicle household, therefore they’re more reliant on public transport.

    Again, taking your arguement to its logical conclusion, perhaps we should all live in the inner city as you clearly think that living in the suburbs or in rural areas is detrimental to both the environment and to inner city dwellers.

    What would this world look like? Clusters of giant residential towers with all services and employment opportunities incorporated – families forced to live close to each other and travel outside strictly regulated – all surrounded by an empty hinterland. That really doesn’t sound very nice at all.

    I’m afraid that your alternative sounds absolutely ghastly, Chris.

    This, of course, is all theory. The reality of decent public transport subsidy can be seen just a few miles over the English Channel in mainland Europe. It works over there and it can work here.

    Happy New Year!

  33. Chris Hutt says:

    Bluebaldee, I’m not saying that subsidy is always wrong. I’m talking about a specific example being wrong, namely people who travel less having to subsidise people who travel more.
    Your don’t appear to have an argument against that particular point, unless I’ve missed something.

    As for subsidies of public transport reducing car traffic, that doesn’t happen to any great extent. Cheaper public transport will encourage more use of public transport, but mostly that would be extra journeys generated and transfers was walking and cycling.

    Any transfer from cars which resulted in reduced congestion would be used by other motorists as a benefit. Other motorists would travel more to take advantage of the reduced congestion until congestion returned to previous levels, so there would be little net reduction in car traffic at peak times.

    I’m not arguing against suburbs either, just pointing out that there is a conflict of interest between people from the outer suburbs who want rapid travel through the inner suburbs and the people who live in the inner suburbs who do not want their communities severed and degraded by motorways, ring roads or rapid transit routes.

    In general mainland Europe has much the same problems with congestion and the unsustainable use of cars as we do. The differences are marginal in comparison to the difference between where we are and where we need to be to live sustainably.

    Happy New Year to you.

  34. Bluebaldee says:

    Chris, I disagree with your premise that subsidising travel is inherently wrong. I just can’t see a problem with one group of people (those who travel less) subsidising another group (those who travel more).

    However, even if I did, both groups would still benefit from the resulting reduction in congestion, improved urban air quality and less vehicular accidents that would occur with a shift from the private motor car to public transport.

    I also disagree with your arguement that cheaper public transport would in itself generate more journeys. People don’t travel for the sake of it – they travel for specific reasons – so why should making public transport cheaper do anything other than encourage people to leave their cars at home? Travel is essentially a pointless and unproductive activity unless it’s a means to an end.

    In addition, in my experience of living in and visiting cities in mainland Europe, such as Bordeaux, Hannover, Amsterdam and Paris, their congestion problems are far less than ours and the reason for that is down to heavy investment in public transport with less reliance on the car as a result.

    It would be great if we could all live more sustainably but then again we can’t all live in the inner city, which is where the majority of employment opportunities exist, can we?

  35. Dona Qixota says:

    Blubaldee: “I just can’t see a problem with one group of people (those who travel less) subsidising another group (those who travel more).”

    It is wrong for the same reason that it would be wrong to force those who consume less, to pay for the consumption of other people who are fit, able-bodied or otherwise perfectly capable of providing whatever it is that they want, for themselves.

    The old “predict and provide” model, which would be completely discredited were decision-makers in any way rational (which they frequently do not appear to be) demonstrates that the greater the provision you make for a travel mode, the greater the uptake of that mode.

  36. TonyD says:

    This thread is rapidy turning into the “angels on a pinhead” type of discussion much beloved by philosophically minded people in ivory towers.

    The arguments by Chris et al appear to be that anything that encourages greater mobility is “a bad thing” and that any investment/subsidy designed for providing new and/or improved transportation links should be resisted.

    So, public transport investment of any type is bad, even if it decreased the number of private cars on the road, because it still encourages a form of transport that uses energy. It doesn’t matter that public transport might be more energy efficient than private cars, it is still “bad for the environment”

    Obviously any investment in the creation of cycle routes is equally bad as it might encourage more people to buy bicycles – which don’t grow on trees, you know. To quote Dona “the greater the provision you make for a travel mode, the greater the uptake of that mode” therefore, QED, cycle routes are “bad for the environment” because it encourages the cycling travel mode, and, if you are active enough to cycle, you can walk (or jog), and thus don’t really need a bike, which is therefore a luxury item whose production depletes finite resources (aluminium, rubber, etc) and damages the environment through the emissions generated in transportation of raw materials and energy used in bike manufacturing.

    Well done Chris, you have managed to put yourself on the side of the anti-cycling brigade, will you be digging up the Bristol railway path to make it pedestrian only anytime soon?

    PS Can anbody provide a link to evidence that demonstrates that better but still-ticketed public transport (as opposed to the building of new roads for the unticketed use of private cars) increases the total number of individual journeys. I would hate to think that people were conflating road traffic evidence with that of public transport. We all know how car drivers are able to deceive themselves about the cost of their journeys and thus encourage themselves to make more incremental journeys (after all, in their economic viewpoint, there is a already paid-for car in the driveway) – it is a bit harder to do this on public transport when you have to purchase a priced ticket to remind you exactly how much this extra journey is costing you in the wallet.

  37. Dona Qixota says:

    I don’t go for pin-dancing, Tony. I quite simply don’t see why I as a walker / cyclist should be forced to pay for people to ride on buses, or whatever, round the city. Especially as many of the people using them would be coming in to well-paid jobs in Bristol from other Council Tax areas in privileged suburbs.

    What happened to public subscription? If well-to-do commuters start raising money towards improved public transport then they might get taken more seriously.

    When we have organisations like Sustrans working with organisations which are being sponsored by bus companies to cold call the public (including walkers and cyclists) and demand to know why they are not taking the bus, I think something has gone very wrong with our transport priorities. What we desperately need to do is to hugely improve the currently lamentable and derisory walking and cycling provision in Bristol. This is something which could be done quickly and with far less money, and which would also fulfil other very important objectives like improving people’s health and countering obesity … BUT … which doesn’t suit any big vested interests.

    Who knows, with the current accelerating rates of social, economic and environmental change we are facing, whatever major infrastructure plans are drawn up today may be quite unsuitable and irrelevant in just a few years time.

    For one example, former US Secretary of Energy, James R. Schlesinger is quoted as having said last autumn:

    “And therefore to the peakists I say, you can declare victory. You are no longer the beleaguered small minority of voices crying in the wilderness. You are now mainstream. You must learn to take yes for an answer and be gracious in victory.”

    aleklett . /2008/12/19/ steven-chu-%e2%80%93-ny-energiminister-i-usa/

  38. SteveL says:

    Probably the closest evidence that better public transport increases traffic comes from london. First in the eighties with Fares-Fare; fixed low rate bus & tube; later with integrated oystercard tube+bus.

    Oystercards are interesting as they split the payment time from use, which is what you get with a car. You also gain from repeated uses during a day, as once you come up to a certain threshold, it tops out and you are in travelcard mode. I believe that Oystercard actually runs at a bit of a loss, but is done by TfL to get people to work and school effectively. You can process passengers faster with an oystercard, so the pricing is designed to encourage its use.

  39. Bluebaldee says:

    “I quite simply don’t see why I as a walker / cyclist should be forced to pay for people to ride on buses, or whatever, round the city. Especially as many of the people using them would be coming in to well-paid jobs in Bristol from other Council Tax areas in privileged suburbs.”

    Dona, that’s a sweeping, somewhat lazy and factually incorrect generalisation.

    Firstly, the vast majority of people using public transport are unlikely to be coming in to “well paid jobs” or live in “privileged suburbs”. They are ordinary people wishing (and currently struggling) to provide for their families. The rich ones with the well paid jobs, living in the posh suburbs are the ones most likely to be driving their cars in, thereby causing the congestion and pollution that blights the City Centre.

    Secondly, do you mind your taxes being used to subsidise other areas of life – health, education, social care, military spending etc? We all contribute to and subsidise each other in one way or another – that’s one of the basic tenets of society and what holds society together. Are you more interested in a laissez faire, dog eat dog situation where we simply pay for ourselves and hang everyone else?

    Thirdly, yes of course we should vastly improve cycling and walking provision but that is hardly the solution for everyone, or even the majority. Why should the nurse, shift worker, teacher, engineer etc etc be forced to walk or cycle many miles in foul weather just because you object to transport subsidy or the woolly concept of “vested interests”.

    Whilst your moral and ecological standpoints are admirable, I’m afraid that both you and Chris are suffering from Utopiaitis.

    Whilst there is social, economic and environmental change happening (when hasn’t there been?), people will still need to get to work, use services and visit friends and family – that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    We need solutions for the transport problems that people face now and in the near future. That means introducing a good quality mass transit system in Bristol as an alternative to the car – BRT won’t do it so we need a decent alternative and if that needs a subsidy, then so be it.

  40. thebristolblogger says:

    If you want people to only walk and cycle everywhere, you’d need to knock the city down and start again.

    I’d suggest you spend some considerable time on the design stage before you start any demolition work though. Creating a sophisticated 21st Century city where no one needs to travel for anything is a big challenge and these kind of grand ideological design-for-the-perfect-future projects usually go seriously awry don’t they?

    A public infrastructure project to create a mass transit system for Bristol seems far more achievable and considerably less risky.

  41. TonyD says:

    ‘We seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit – our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through those who are different from us.’ – Barack Obama

    Dona Quixote said “I quite simply don’t see why I as a walker / cyclist should be forced to pay for people to ride on buses, or whatever, round the city”

    This almost sounds like a typical motorist’s response to the campaign for more cycling routes;

    “I quite simply don’t see why I as a motorist should be forced to pay for people to ride on cycles, or whatever, round the city”

    Until we are able to empathise with the reason why our opponent’s views are so different from our own rather than simply using the mirror-image arguments to support diametrically opposed opinions then we will continue to make little progress. Although it might be lovely to think that we could somehow convince the vast majority of motorists to switch to cycling and walking as an alternative way of travelling to work, a comparison of the two opposing views exampled above surely demonstrates that this is as likely as believing most cyclists and walkers could be convinced that it would be a good idea to drive a car to work each day.

    I am quite happy to subsidise investment in new cycle routes and walking schemes (for example the £140 million per year given to Cycling England) as I believe that cycling and walking are beneficial to the environment in that they remain the most energy-efficient forms of transport. I am also quite happy to subsidise investment in pubic transport provision as I recognise that, although I would love to think that everybody would choose to walk or cycle, I know that in the real world, this is simply not going to happen. I also know that the average motorist travels some 14,000km each year and pumps out 3.1 tonnes of carbon emissions and converting just one driver to ride on modern, efficient public transport (which appears much more likely then persuading them to get on their bike) will reduce this to 0.9 tonnes on light rail and just 0.8 tonnes on normal rail. Even if double the numbers of walkers or cyclists compared to motorists decide to jump on-board, we would still reduce our overall carbon emissions. However I happen to believe that almost all cyclists and most walkers recognise the extra benefits of their chosen method of travelling to work and are thus unlikely to be tempted so easily.

    There has been a lot of discussion on this thread regarding subsidies but very few figures. So here are some figures – as far back as 1996, the UK Railway Development Society analysed the relative costs of road versus rail transport. They estimated that road transport receives a public subsidy that amounts to £68 billion per year. Even without environmental costs, it is still £46 billion which was directly comparable to the £1.15 billion received by rail. The figures may have changed in the last 10-12 years, but does anybody think today’s road subsidy is likely to be lower? It is the right time for Bristol and its neighbouring authorities to take steps to provide the type of public transport system that is both needed and desired. That is not Bus-based and if it means that we need to subsidise/invest more to get the Rail-based system that most of us know is the only system that will do the job then so be it, and if that also has the added benefit of reducing the “hidden” road subsidy then even better.

  42. Chris Hutt says:

    I notice that everyone arguing for subsidy seems to find it necessary to grossly misrepresent what I have said to justify their positions.

    I am not advocating the reconstruction of the city around walking and cycling. I am not arguing against mobility per se. I am not against cycling per se. I am not against public transport per se.

    What I am saying is that we should not consider using subsidies to distort the market unless we are very clear about who the losers and winners will be and what the likely consequences are.

    TonyD offers us an interesting example of this. He says that road transport receives a subsidy of £68 billion a year. That’s in the order of £2,000 p.a. for each tax payer, including those who make little use of road transport, and illustrates the unfairness of subsidies.

    If TonyD’s figure of £68 billion of subsidy is correct it goes a long way towards explaining why road transport is proving so problematical. The massive subsidy distorts the market in favour of transport in general and road transport in particular, resulting in congestion and unreliability.

    The logical response is to remove the subsidy so that road transport has to pay its real costs. Then people will use road transport less, congestion will diminish and the transport system will work more efficiently.

    But if you follow TonyD’s ‘logic’ you respond by increasing transport subsidies still further (by further subsidising rail transport) so increasing the market distortions and the consequent congestion and inefficiency.

    I’ve no objection in principal to the creation of a tram system for Bristol if enough people want to use it and pay for it to justify it financially. But I don’t believe enough people will be willing to use it and pay for it unless severe restraints are introduced on the use of cars.

    Congestion charging and parking charges are examples of the kind of restraints on car use that would be required, but we see how unpopular such measures are. So we are stuck where we are.

  43. TonyD says:

    “But if you follow TonyD’s ‘logic’ you respond by increasing transport subsidies still further (by further subsidising rail transport) so increasing the market distortions and the consequent congestion and inefficiency. ”

    No Chris, now it is you that “seems to find it necessary to grossly misrepresent what I have said to justify their position”. If I have replaced my car with a bicycle that does not mean I have “increased” my personal transport subsidy by adding the bike costs to the car costs – it is a replacement of one form of transport with another.

    In the same way, a large proportion of road costs are in response to, not in advance of, road usage. For example;

    £24.5 billion in costs caused by environmental damage – a bill that will be reduced if there were fewer cars using the road.

    £17.5 billion in road accidents and breakdown costs – a bill that will be reduced if there were fewer cars using the road.

    £3 billion in Police and Court costs – a bill that will be reduced if there were fewer cars using the road.

    That’s nearly £45 billion in costs that are determined by the level of road usage itself within just three topic areas. If you eliminate the cause, you eliminate the cost. What I am talking about is not increasing subsidies but redirecting some of the existing subsidies by turning them into an investment designed to seek a beneficial financial and environmental return by promoting a form of transport (i.e light rail) that is, in my view, the most likely to eliminate many of the costs associated with road transport and, as a result, reduce the overall subsidy.

    An analogy might be to either continue to subsidise my local power company by paying large heating bills or to invest in lagging to insulate my house and recover the costs of my investment – I am not intending to pay for BOTH lagging AND large heating bills!

    By the way Chris, please feel free to point out where I have grossly misrepresented your views on this thread. The nearest I could find was an obviously sarcastic comment where I said that you had put yourself on the side of the anti-cycling brigade. I doubt if anyone really believes that was a real attempt to misrepresent your views.

  44. Chris Hutt says:

    Tony, you’ve pointed out your gross misrepresentation yourself. If you think that’s obviously sarcastic then isn’t my comment about it obviously sarcastic too?

    As for the motoring subsidies that you have detailed, who do you think should pay for these costs – the people who cause them or the people who don’t?

    If motorists paid for their own environmental damage, for their own road “accidents” and for their own police and court costs, then don’t you think fewer people would use cars, in response to the increased costs?

    What they choose to do instead is their business and not the Government’s. They may prefer to reduce their need to travel, or to walk or cycle, or to use public transport, or a combination of those. Why should the state intervene in favour of motorised travel, the most environmentally damaging of those options?

  45. TonyD says:

    “As for the motoring subsidies that you have detailed, who do you think should pay for these costs – the people who cause them or the people who don’t?”

    I think that the target for us all should be to achieve a more sustainable way of life – and that includes ensuring that we end up with a situation whereby each individual pays for their chosen form of transport in a fair and equitable way. So yes, where all other things are equal, then people who choose to use cars should pay their full costs. However, I believe that to achieve this goal may involve making some less than perfectly eco-friendly compromises en route – such as investing in high quality public transport at the expense of the private motor car. But, my opinion is largely irrelevant, as I am not your average car-driving Bristolian – you appear to have missed the bit where I mentioned in this thread that I gave up my car eight years ago. You are preaching to the converted – if there was a vote tomorrow to remove all private car subsidies I would almost certainly vote in favour as I have no car to benefit from the retention of those subsidies. That makes probably 2 of us, how many more do you think?

    The people you need to convince are those who do own a car and/or choose to use motor transport, they are in the majority and thus control the vote. However it appears you have little in the way of empathy with their views or even why they hold them, and thus no concept of how to influence them to change their opinion and thus transport choice. If fact, rather than even attempting to convince them, you appear to feel that there is no way that Bristolians would vote for anything remotely seen as anti-car (such as congestion charging). Yet, despite this, you seem to believe that somehow we will be able to achieve a situation whereby all motor subsidies are done away with.


  46. Chris Hutt says:


    As Bismark observed, politics is the art of the possible, but I’m not concerned with what might be possible so much as what the underlying principles are. In this thread I have tried to draw attention to the way subsidies distort markets and lead to inefficiency.

    Politicians will do as they always do and look for short-term electoral advantage rather than longer term solutions and so our transport problems, and any other problem that cannot be resolved within four or five years, will continue ad infinitum.

    I could set out some ideas that I would implement if the world had the sense to appoint me benign dictator for life, but is there really any point? All we can do is observe and comment and complain, as most people have done for millennia.

  47. Dona Qixota says:

    “many of the people using them would be coming in to well-paid jobs in Bristol from other Council Tax areas in privileged suburbs”

    My point was that if the suggested public transport system is to be in any way successful, then the task is surely to divert the majority of car-drivers onto the public transport for which subsidy is being advocated. So the subsidy would indeed benefit them. As to privilege, well it’s all relative, and from the vantage point of Redfield, Barton Hill, Easton or St Pauls most other places in Bristol are certainly more privileged. It seems beyond doubt that Bristol city centre has a lot of very well-paid jobs which are often held by people who choose to live in nice leafy suburbs. Why should council tax payers living in far less pleasant areas pay for such lucky commuters to be tempted onto public transport?

    “Secondly, do you mind your taxes being used to subsidise other areas of life – health, education, social care, military spending etc?” In many ways I do profoundly object to present social arrangements. The only way it seems to me possible not to be forced into complete collusion with the ecocidal society is to engage in as much (legal and non-violent obviously) non-cooperation as is possible – cutting down on consumption and earning, for example. Our atomised society is increasingly made up of people who no longer co-operate, in a huge variety of ways and for many reasons. It is becoming insupportable.

    Tony D – I have plenty of empathy, thank-you. What I don’t understand is why most people appear to refuse to find much empathy for the natural world around us, the fellow species that we are stupidly and recklessly exterminating in the rush to satisfy our endless demands.

    It seems that too many are awfully complacent about how far we can push our ecosystems before they become irretrievably degraded and stop giving freely to humans. Biological systems are noted for time-lags, threshhold effects and sudden discontinuities.

    Remember we are in uncharted territory – the human population is unprecedentedly high with already almost 7,000,000,000 of us, and under current trends the human population is set to grow to at least 9Bn. How long can the Earth support growing numbers of “modern” people with insatiable demands – we are called “the Termite People” with very good reason – before the quality of life drops massively or even collapses completely. Is that really a risk you are prepared to take for the sake of this business-as-usual lifestyle we are currently leading?

  48. Larry Page says:

    Do you guys ever feel sad that you’ve left 47 comments on a relatively unread internet blog and yet still talk as if you know the answer to anything, which you don’t?

  49. bluebaldee says:

    Not really Larry – how do you feel now that you’ve left comment number 48?

  50. redzone says:

    it’s called open debate larry 😀
    care to share why you felt compelled to post on a relatively unread internet blog? 😕

  51. Larry Page says:

    I lurk.

    Also bluebaldee you are my favourite, it was not aimed at you.

  52. never mind says:

    ecocidal definition |

    Definition of ECOCIDAL at with free audio pronunciation. ecocidal synonyms and translations. Crossword and puzzle games.

  53. yorkie says:

    The future for transport in York will be back to horses and carts. The council were sold the idea that bendy buses were the way forward. Sadly the council in York are as thick as a plank. These buses are not fit for purpose. There real purpose is to pick up large groups of people and to move to them short distances at low speed in large areas. Airports I hear you say, not residential areas. We used to have double deckers that the driver took the fare, gave you a ticket and could view most of the inside of the bus. Ftr’s need a driver a conductor and an inspector because the machine that was planned to take fares failed never to be seen again. The drivers often set off to early sending people staggering and bumping into their seats. To get off you are informed to press the bell and wait until the bus stops before leaving your seat. This is made impossible as you can’t reach the push button unless you stand up and walk to the nearest one. If you follow these instructions by the time you get up other people would have seen the doors open with no one there, enter the bus making your exit difficult. The drivers view is poor so most of the time he relies on cameras at the doors to decide his actions. The floor level on these cattle trucks are at three different levels. The seats are arranged in every direction, some have large steps to reach them. It’s great fun to watching OAPs pop off seats when bus suddenly turns or stops. I prefer rows of seats all facing same direction and something to brace you or hold on to. If you think this is all the bad points, stay tuned for part two when I reveal the truth about York’s purple caterpillars downside.

  54. chris hutt says:

    That’s all very interesting Yorkie. Looking forward to Part Two.

  55. Yorkie says:

    Having decided York needed future transport rollercoaster ride system the council turned to cost and preparation. First alterations to the roads would be needed to widen junctions, move stops to accommodate the twenty one foot stopping points. These stopping points, bus stops to you and me had to have reinforced curbs and be raised a little higher than originals. Some stops needed moving to prevent two Ftrs blocking the road. Residents could find these purple caterpillars preventing access to properties for several minutes at a time. Services like water, gas, electricity and telephone often run to access points at the corners of streets. These services needed to be re-routed by altering pipes, using new cables in some cases and moving stop cocks so the corners could be widened. The road traffic calming that York council invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in needed to be reduced to a minimum to give passengers a smoother ride. Large humps out and smaller pads in. No parking along routes so Ftrs didn’t have to snake down streets. Roads across the city were resurfaced and some needed the concrete slaps breaking to reduce the noise they may have produced. The cost of this would be into millions of pounds. All the council will say it that is not your money it comes from the public transport coffers. Oh and where do they get the money from I hear you say, ask your councillor and watch his or her face turn pale.
    The bus service started and there were buses everywhere. If you needed a bus one would be there in less than five minutes. Two or three would turn up completely stopping traffic until they moved off. I often saw buses on routes that they did not belong on. Fares went up before new service started and have gone up several times since. The Ftrs are louder than other buses I guess because the revs are higher to maintain the air conditioning unit. They running costs are something like nine miles a gallon, but don’t quote me. The vehicles snake and bounce as they move giving a low thundery sound similar to the sound of a lorry running on flat tyres. The vibrations from these vehicle damages building causing small cracks to appear in brickwork plaster walls and ceilings. Many residents have complained but as I said earlier the council are too thick to measure and record the subterranean noise. Mini earth quakes like these will flex gas and water pipes until they crack. More expense that we need not worry about. The buses are running less often than before and with fewer passengers. The percentage of the passengers that can travel free is rising so I guess fares will have to go up again. Cyclist will die in York either crushed to death or from the dioxins in their lungs from the fumes they are force to breath in. Up until this present moment I have not heard of anyone suffering this fate but near misses are happening every single day. The Ftrs are regularly failing dying a death in some awkward places stopping traffic in both directions.
    The council of York have dammed us to a poor mode of transport with massive liabilities in future and massive hidden costs that we will all pay for in our council tax. One fifth of this tax pays for their pension which lost twenty nine percent of its value this last year thanks to unregulated and out of control country that we are so persecuted to live in. There a very old tradition in York that when the people lose faith in those who rule us, we cut off their heads and mount them on the bar walls to discourage others following suit. Some of the council look like gargoyles thinks like morons are act arrogant intellectuals and suffer from delusions of grandeur. Needless to say I hate them because they fail us every day in every way. That’ enough about future transport, I hope others will avoid the unreliable f@~?ing terrible ride bendy cattle truck.

  56. Jon Rogers says:

    Thanks Yorkie

    I have had the following officer response,

    “Hopefully people are aware that the York situation is totally different to Bristols.

    “Apart from changes to bus stops (and then these were made without FTR in mind), no changes to the road layout were made. The routes in York are totally unsuitable for this sort of operation.

    “We are looking at purpose built routes or roads re- engineered city centre roads.

    “FTR in York runs through housing estates! I think it is important that people appreciate these differences. I am well acquainted with the York situation as I used to work these (albeit pre FTR). “

    Happy to seek further answers. I am already investigating the Prince Street bridge affair!


  57. mark Bradshaw says:


    FTR in York is very different to the proposals in Bristol – I went to see the scheme for myself a while back. I didn’t like the vehicles and the route was not a segregated as I would have liked. Also, they hadn’t taken a big leap towards intergrated/cashless ticketing as perhaps might.

    On Prince St Bridge, surely you appreciate that the trial scheme I introduced is almost identical to that announced by Dennis Brown, my Lib Dem predecessor in June 2006 -I still have the press release, but for some reason it was never implemented despite your party being in office up to May 2007!

    It’s a difficult balance – to preserve access for all users, incl emergency services, but to make sure the bridge continues to operate the regular swings and is safe for all. We spent many hours going through all the options – I’m sure you’ve had the same briefings – hopefully the same advice!


  58. chris hutt says:

    First’s ‘ftr’ was the vehicle envisaged for the Bristol BRT system, before Bradshaw found it expedient to distance himself from First.

    A substantial part of the BRT route currently proposed is on existing streets with some tight bends to be negotiated, notably at Wapping Road, The Grove / Prince Street, Redcliffe Way and Cabot Circus.

    Also kerb guidance on concrete tracks seems to have been dropped from the scheme so the bendy-buses will be steered by the driver throughout the route, unlike the Cambridge scheme, which may impact on comfort levels.

    So there are lessons to be learnt from York’s experience, above all not to be bamboozled into thinking that new technology is some sort of panacea to solve public transport problems.

    Paying way over the odds for some fancy new technology may give the project a “wow” factor for the first few months but as in York the new vehicles will soon become mundane and the source of complaints just like any other public transport provision.

    New technology brings new problems which have to be discovered the hard way, so there’s a lot to be said for incremental improvements to existing bus technology rather than a leap into the dark.

  59. mark Bradshaw says:

    Chris Hutt

    Hey, no operator has been chosen for BRT which will need to go to full EU procurement. I want the best for Bristol unlike you who seems to want to prevent anything being done to address traffic challenges, as success and progress don’t make good blog content (and you would have to admit Labour got something right). I didn’t set up the advisory panel with included First (incidentally done in 2006 under the Lib Dems) but made damn sure they came off it when I found out. Repeat your accusations all you want but I will put the record straight every time.

  60. chris hutt says:

    Mark, you seem to be contradicting things I didn’t even say.

    Where did I say that First were the chosen operator? Where did I say you brought First on to the board?

    By all means put the record straight when it has actually been ‘bent’, but in this case you seem to have nothing to put straight based on what I actually said.

    Let me assist you with a more specific point. You say you got First off the board “when I found out”. So you were heading BRT for about a year before you “found out” that First were on the board?

    Care to explain that one?

  61. mark Bradshaw says:

    Chris, the project board was a west of england technical grouping attended by officers not members. you will find i was raising concerns about first’s seat at the table from a v early stage – as I would have done re any potential bidder/operator. actualy BRT has great potential to attract new operators into the Bristol market -something I want and support. Mark

  62. chris hutt says:

    Mark “…but made damn sure they came off it when I found out”

    So it took the best part of a year to get them off? That’s funny because the impression was that it was only when the public backlash to BRT on the Railway Path manifested itself big time that you suddenly ordered them off. I think it was covered in that exchange of letters with Sustrans, wasn’t it?

  63. mark Bradshaw says:


    I felt it was wrong for a potential bidder/operator to be on such a group and made this view known to the appropriate people.

    Not sure what else I can say, except First left the project group and we now have a major bid for government for funding the initial Bristol BRT route, with all party agreement as to the route and technology being sought. I’m sure we haven’t been in a similar position for a long time (although of course, Cycling City had all party endorsement and hopefully still does)


  64. chris hutt says:

    Mark, I’m afraid there’s one thing we agree on! The need to have some substantial competition to First in local public transport provision. An effective monopoly is never a good thing.

  65. mark Bradshaw says:

    wow. that’s a first, pardon the pun

  66. chris hutt says:

    So if we agree on the fundamental need for effective competition in public transport provision, how come with a Labour Council and local Labour MPs making a lot of noise and a Labour Government nothing was actually done about it?

  67. Paul Smith says:


    the Government passed a transport act which give groups of authorities to set up a transport authority with the power to control routes and prices. It is now up to the councils in this area to agree – all parties on Bristol support this, one stumbling block was Pat Hockey in South Glos who was opposed. Dont know where this is at now, I think Jon Rogers supports this so presumably he is forging ahead implementing Labour Party policy

  68. mark Bradshaw says:

    very true Paul
    and the next Council meeting will provide members with an opportunity to get on record where they stand about local competition and using Labour’s new powers.

    I’m clear there needs to be an end to the local monopoly enjoyed by one company and a more strategic approach to defining routes, setting max fares and getting more integration in place for Bristol and in the wider sub-region.

  69. Get out says:

    Ahhh ha-ha-ha! Yes, didnt take long did it. Now Labour arent running any councils in the area, it’s suddenly all down to the councils themselves to solve everything with the great new Transport Act!


    Buck-passing by the Labour government, eh… just like the Tories used to blame everything on Labour councils in the 80’s and 90’s. Lame.

    Mark Bradshaw, I’m sure you know full well that the Tories have been running S Glos for a couple of years now, so attempting to blame their opposition to the ITA on Lib Dems isnt really going to wash is it? Presumably the opposition of all 3 Tory councils to the ITA is also all Lib Dems fault?

    You people crack me up.

  70. mark Bradshaw says:

    ? did I mention S glos council

    my comments are about Bristol but its surely better to have more coordination across boundary for bus and rail – isn’t it?

  71. Get out says:

    Sorry, that was Paul Smith. It’s difficult to tell you two apart.

  72. mark Bradshaw says:

    oh i see

    but it is true to say that each of the councils is in a different place in terms of supporting an ITA, at the moment, so cross-party and cross- boundary working is needed to resolve and build confidence etc.

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