One manager boasted that drivers on Arriva’s Northumbria Express X30 service, launched in 2009 to compete aggressively with rival Go North East, were “fed on red raw meat”. This is one of a series of behind-the-scenes remarks by bus managers revealed by the Competition Commission last week. But what does this tell us about the bus industry?

Is this a case of macho language, and not much more? Or is it proof that bus companies are territorial animals that protect their patch and react fiercely to perceived incursions by their rivals? These are some of the questions being asked following publication of new evidence by the Competition Commission, which has probed the market for local bus services for the past 21 months.

The evidence relates to Arriva and Go North East in the North East of England, and Arriva and FirstGroup in the North West.

“We have found evidence of a clear perception among some operators that some areas ‘belong’ to a particular company and of behaviour designed to maintain that situation, particularly threats of retaliation when attempts are made to encroach on their territory,” said Jeremy Peat, chairman of CC’s local bus market investigation group.

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Picture courtesy of Paul Corfield.

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