WILTSHIRE Council is undertaking a review of supported bus services in the light of huge funding cuts. There is no doubt that bus funding will be cut and in the worst case scenario all subsidised local bus services will disappear resulting in a Dr Beeching-style cut of local bus services.

There is a growing band of campaigners who support bus franchising or ‘bus quality contracts’. These models suggest that if the local authority takes control of all bus services (including those that currently operate without subsidy) then the authority can redesign the current bus networks to force the bus companies to provide comprehensive bus networks with no future subsidy.

Some campaigners and ‘transport experts’ think that bus companies are making huge profits on certain routes and they can be forced to redistribute these profits to cover poorly used services, such as rural services and evening/weekend services. This can be forced upon the bus companies at the same time as all funding is withdrawn. What a lovely Utopian ideal! In reality a large number of bus companies have already ceased trading in recent years and others struggle to survive.

The truth is that bus companies already cross subsidise. How often do you see a bus virtually empty at 2pm? The peak hour revenue has paid for this quiet period of the day or route.

Buses cannot run at a loss. Faresaver is a small family-owned bus company. We reinvest our profits into better buses and improved pay and conditions for our workers. Despite national trends, our passenger loadings increase year on year as we improve service quality and frequency. In recent years we have filled the voids left by other larger bus companies who have deemed these routes to be financially unviable.

The big bus companies invest millions in their fleets and employees. If you force these companies to dilute their profits, they will reduce investment. The big bus companies in the UK are multinational organisations with many business interests. If you destroy their UK profitability, do you really think they will continue to invest in this county/country?

The UK bus industry needs government subsidies, it always has done. The only place where bus franchising works is in London, but even here, Transport For London receives millions of pounds in subsidies. Anyone who suggests that these can be removed and the bus companies forced to work harder for less has little understanding of basic business principles.

If you want a bus service you must ask your local authority not to make cuts in this area. The suggestion that there is some other workable alternative is in our view misguided.

JUSTIN PICKFORD, Faresaver, Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate, Chippenham