Reading the election runes

Someone asked me this week what might lie ahead for bus and coach operators following the general election. Well, who knows. Seasoned political pundits have been unable to shed much light on the goings-on at Westminster over the past three years and just when you think it can’t get any crazier, it does just that.

But what we do know is that the future is likely to see at least some trials of a franchised bus operation outside London, and that the climate and air pollution agenda will continue apace with significant impacts for bus and coach operators.

Manchester has now started its bus regulation consultation process, and it would be a brave person who would bet against the final outcome being close to Andy Burnham’s franchising plans, although it could still get very messy before we get there. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how well the operators stick together as there is by no means complete consensus in their approach to the concept of running buses in a franchised network.

On the environmental side, much of the impetus is coming from local authorities, particularly those with elected mayors and Bristol’s latest move may signal a new radicalism and one that does at least appear to be prepared to tackle private diesel cars and not just pick on the easy targets of coaches and commercial vehicles. Expect more of the same as the Clean Air Zone concept extends around the country.

Businesses don’t need to wait until they are pushed of course. It is good to see some taking action ahead of the curve, and Go Ahead should be applauded for its commitments on cutting carbon across its operations and for publishing comprehensive sustainabiulity reports for each of its subsidiaries.

Of course, elections are a time to roll out the battle buses [even though they are almost always coaches]. As I write this, I have just seen the Lib Dems parading theirs and it would seem that they have managed to snaffle the only electric coach available with some good publicity for Yutong in the process.

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