Rises in gasoline prices could give boost public transport

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The operators of bus services could benefit greatly from the ever rising gas and diesel prices, according to investment experts.

The ever increasing prices at the filling station pumps for gasoline and diesel are driving commuters out of cars and onto public transport – and bus and train providers should take advantage of the opportunity.

This move would be even bigger, of that I am sure, if the prices would actually be at a sustainable level; one low enough that would make it cheaper for people to use the bus, train, tube and tram, and other means of public transit.

Public transport operators have been offered an opportunity by the increasing numbers of people choosing public transport for environmental reasons, and could make something great out of this if they would now take the jump and reduce the ticket prices, especially the rail prices, which tend to be more expensive – about double if not more – than flying.

Mike Fox, CIS Sustainable Leaders trust fund manager at The Co-operative Investments said: "Commuters now have more than just environmental reasons to leave the car at home.

"The rising cost of filling up at the pumps is leading increasing numbers of people to choose public transport to save money and it is good news for providers."

Arriva and National Express are two companies that are particularly well-placed to benefit from increasing switches to public transport.

If congestion charging is extended to other UK cities, outside of London, public transport could benefit from significant new investment through the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) of the UK's Department of Transport.

Government funding to the tune of £2.8bn for public transport improvements could be made available through the (TIF). The question is: will it? Is the government prepared to actually invest in public transit, as it is done in other countries.

Transport bosses have promised most improvements would be in place before the charge comes into effect in 2013, including extra trains and buses, better stations, and an extension of the Metrolink.

The question here is, at what cost to the user... for so far every time that there are supposed improvements in the transport system infrastructure the fares rise even higher and higher.

The fact is that the infrastructure, ever since the public transport systems in the UK have been privatized under the Thatcher government, and the service in general, has gone from bad to worse, though some of the new trains are rather good. The fares have risen out of all proportions because of the only thing the companies are were and are really interested in is their bottom line, their profit and how much they can give to their shareholders. I am sure there is another way. In fact there is. Other countries in the European Union prove that.

We need to find the right way to get people back onto public transport and not just because people get forced off the car because of rising fuel costs. We need to make public transport more desirable – for lack of a better word – to all commuters and travellers. For this, aside from good stations and reliable service, the fares must come down to an affordable level. It is simply stupid when a plane ticket to Belfast from London is £45 single when the train fare, return, is about £300. This does not compute. Neither does a ticket from London to Birmingham that by train costs £200+ and the same by plane would work out to about £65 return. Duh? Something wrong here somewhere.

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008