AS one of those involved in drawing up the Option 24/7 Wiltshire bus franchising proposals, I am writing to reply to the points made by Faresaver’s Justin Pickford (Gazette, February 4).

Whilst Mr Pickford is entitled to his opinion, people need to be aware of the context in which he makes his remarks. According to the January 2016 Wiltshire Council list, in terms of the type of subsidised bus services that are under threat, Faresaver operates only a small number of weekday/Saturday contracts, and no evening or Sunday bus contracts at all.

It is instead focused on Monday to Saturday daytime commercial bus services, and while it has every right to run its business that way, the public also have a right to consider their market position when judging subsidised bus services in general, and solutions that involve cross-subsidising those services with commercial ones in particular.

Mr Pickford’s examples are based on current bus franchising/quality contract legislation, while we make it clear that our plans are based on the Government’s forthcoming Buses Bill, due very soon, which makes bus franchising schemes far more credible and easier to introduce.

The Department for Transport has commissioned a huge amount of research into a range of options for the future of the bus market, including gathering views right across the bus industry, from local bus companies similar to Faresaver, through to larger operators and passenger transport executives, along with local authorities, passenger advocates and industry associations, and has concluded that bus franchising deserves a place right at the heart of this Bill.

While some express similar concerns to Mr Pickford, there are also many positive points made by others, all of which are detailed in an independent report by KPMG available in full from our website – This wouldn’t be a Utopian bus network but it would be a realistic and forward-thinking one, particularly compared to the alternatives being offered.

For those who share Mr Pickford’s concerns that we apparently have “little understanding of basic business principles”, let me reassure you. Option 24/7 includes a Chamber of Commerce president who is also a highly-respected transport commentator, along with a former member of the transport users’ consultative committee for western England.

I myself am a former Wiltshire Council travel advisor team leader, and we are all part of the same community team that, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, First Great Western and others, has worked hard for an improved TransWilts train service, with some success.

We fully believe that, through bus franchising, we can achieve success with Wiltshire’s bus network too, but not alone. We want to move toward that success in partnership with the public, the councils, the bus companies and others.

I have a great respect for the Pickford family and their achievements, plus the fact we have kept talking despite our differences, and I genuinely hope that Faresaver can join us on that journey.

LEE FLETCHER, Option 24/7, Spa Road, Melksham