Buses are Always a Footnote

Coastliner Bus at Malton

In a footnote to Boris Johnson’s reconfirmation of the troubled HS2 railway megaproject, the Department for Transport announced additional funding for buses. £5 billion (less £350 millionor maybe a billion … for cycling) over 5 years, spread across “every region outside London”. Presumably within England, since local transport policy is devolved elsewhere, although in a nebulous style typical of the Prime Minister, the language is of “country” – however one chooses to see it.

Needless to say this “new vision for local transport” is extremely light on detail, as yet devoid of strategy, and still pending the appropriate Comprehensive Spending Review. We’d all be well advised to get it in writing first.

One billion pounds per year is not entirely insignificant – almost 50p per bus passenger journey (in England outside London) or just over £1 per bus vehicle mile operated. Potentially enough to buy aspirations for “higher frequency services” or “more affordable, simpler fares” on urban networks. But nowhere near enough to deliver “turn up and go” frequencies in small town, periurban or rural areas, where patronage and consequent farebox revenue would tend to be minimal. A but that will be the bane of this politically, since much of the electoral constituency of Johnson’s government is small town, periurban or rural, precisely the places where public transport does not deliver as much “bang for the buck”. Continue reading “Buses are Always a Footnote”

Saving Ferroviarias

ADIF at Luarca station

This essay reviews the broad policy context of Spain’s passenger railways, highlighting the residual tension between pre-democratic and Modern eras, the financial impetus to make the high speed network more viable, and the evolving policy paradigm of rationalisation. Continue reading “Saving Ferroviarias”

Is Alta Velocidad Fast?

Awaiting Fast AVE

This essay analyses and explores the regional passenger fare structure of Renfe, Spain’s national railway operator. The question, “Is Alta Velocidad Fast?”, derives from Renfe’s tradition of pricing slower trains cheaper. The question asks whether, in the era of yield management (balancing current patronage to current capacity by modifying price), the traditional fare structure should be applied to high speed, AV, operations? The journey provides an insight into the structure of modern transport geography, the haphazard strategic development and exploitation of Alta Velocidad, the management of national inequalities through fares, the conflation of public and commercial roles within single shared operations, and, from a perspective other than infrastructure, the contemporary challenges to Spain’s railways. Continue reading “Is Alta Velocidad Fast?”

On the Wings of Hope

AVE at Sants Station

This essay ponders the interplay of risk, debt and optimism, with specific reference to the expansion of Spain’s high speed railway network. It summarises the renaissance of AVE expansion, reconciling different approaches to risk in the construction of transport infrastructure. The interaction of external finance within the Spanish societal structure is hypothesised as reliance on external debt with no internal counter-balances – a virtual economy characterised as Gross Domestic Optimism. The postscript asks what it means to invest in state, with reference to two evolving models – people and perception. Continue reading “On the Wings of Hope”

Public Competition in Post-Independència Catalunya

Camp del Ferro

This essay examines how the art of public competition functions when one of its most important competitors is absent. The suspension of policy-making within the Generalitat de Catalunya, following the region’s failed bid for independence, provided an almost unique opportunity to observe the strategic processes and limitations of the art of public competition. The optimistic finances of metro line 9/10 set the context, followed by analysis of the reactions of the city and metropolitan area of Barcelona to the Generalitat’s hiatus. That analysis exposes vast differences in the funding models of higher and lower tiers of Spanish government, which can be traced to the availability of externally-financed debt. Continue reading “Public Competition in Post-Independència Catalunya”