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Poor bus vultures

Free money isn’t enough for those complaining about being asked to run ‘private’ bus services. They want you to think that they are a business and the state is the customer when it’s the other way round.

Private bus companies are sick of letting pensioners on their busses for free and will punish the rest of us until the Scottish Government stuffs their mouths with gold. That seems to be the stated position. The free travel for the elderly scheme is not (apparently) ‘fully funded’ and these poor bus companies are losing money.

Now, let’s start off with the clear statement that the finances of the scheme are not what I want to challenge and I have no very strong view on what is the right ‘sweetener’ for the bus companies to go along with it. But I think I’ll start of by suggesting that being given a monopoly franchise might be a good starting sweetener. The mendacity of bus companies suggesting that its unfair because they have to accept passengers on routes for which they are already subsidised seems remarkable to me. They are paid to run busses and then they are paid more to allow people to sit in what would otherwise be empty seats.

But its not enough. The modern business model is simple – what we are looking at here is a privatised public service, and we know what public services are for? Making private companies rich. Of course it is. Whatever amount of money is given to the bus companies, its sufficiency can only be measured in the profit with which the owners can run off. The vulture ethos of the modern company in receipt of public funding is getting quite ridiculous; it seems that whatever financial returns the company makes the right course of action is to batter governments to get more out of them. And this is reported straight by the media.

So a simple suggestion, oh captains of industry. If you are not making enough profit, walk away. Oh, hold on, there is nowhere to walk away to. You rely totally on the fact that the state will subsidise public transport even to exist. You can’t run your business without the public subsidy. In fact, you are nothing other than a private hire company without public subsidy. Ideally you would be politely relieved of your duties and public transport would be put back into fully public hands. But until that can happen, get off your high horse and stop acting like somehow ‘your’ business is being undermined by ‘the state’. It is so, totally, not that way round.

Robin McAlpine