Go-Ahead points to record in helping local authorities to deliver their objectives at low cost in making the case for voluntary bus partnerships



Go-Ahead has predicted that the ability to adapt services to meet local authority policies along with building strong reputations in local communities will define whether bus companies survive.

At the presentation of the group’s half year results, chief executive David Brown acknowledged the debate across all political parties on the best way to deliver bus services in line with policy shifts towards devolving more power to councils. And taking a relatively soft tone on regulation, he added that he understood the motivation for Nexus’s plans to introduce quality contracts in the north east, where Go-Ahead is the largest operator, even if he disagreed strongly that it would be the best way to achieve Nexus’s wider policies.

“We get why people would want localism. We may not agree with what they [Nexus] are doing but get why they are trying to do it,” Brown told City analysts.

To ward off the possibility of more councils pursuing powers to regulate buses, Brown made clear his belief that it will be increasingly important for operators to demonstrate the impact of voluntary partnerships in helping local authorities achieve their economic and social policies effectively and at low cost to taxpayers.

“Our belief is it will not be the strong or smart that survive but the most adaptable that survive in a changing political world,” he said.

Brown pointed to Go-Ahead’s introduction of hybrid buses to help deliver Brighton council’s low emission zone, the multi-operator smart ticketing scheme in Oxford, and a 15% growth in patronage across Go-Ahead’s business in five years as examples of what local partnerships could achieve.

“What do we bring to the party? Investment in buses, premises and technology – more than £170m over the last five years,” Brown said. “Local authorities can only get that level of capital investment by increasing fares, looking at borrowing on future revenue or central government grant. That’s what happens in London, but we invest from our profits.”


Related coverage can be found inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport:

Progress made on profit target
Patronage and mileage loss fails to dent momentum

Initial Thameslink profits wiped out
DfT supports group’s views on the vagaries of franchise bidding

German regional rail bid team established
Group steps up bids for overseas contracts


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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