The No 41 Bus issue
The link is to my speech last night referring to the No 41 bus.I would like to carry out what I call the “No. 41 bus test” on whether the new watchdog and the order are of any use. At times, it is good to look at specific problems and at whether they are likely to be improved. The No. 41 bus served part of Birmingham and Solihull until the weekend, and its withdrawal has caused major problems, particularly in Stockfield road, Dolphin lane and Shirley road. We have to ask whether giving the powers to Passenger Focus will enable something to be done for those local residents—probably not, I would say.
Together with local councillors, I have lobbied to keep the No. 41 bus service, but we have just been ignored—well, “ignored” is not exactly the right word; we have had meetings with the transport authority and with National Express. Passenger Focus has the right to ask for information, but not to prevent the service from being withdrawn. As a watchdog it has a bark, but in practice it does not have a bite. The transport commissioners may have a bite, but the bite to retain a bus service does not exist, and that is where the matter fails the No. 41 bus test.
Councillors Iain Bowen and Paula Smith proposed a circular bus route. That could have been proposed via Passenger Focus. The National Express Group has turned that down, and Passenger Focus would not make any difference to that. As the market stands, we can go to another bus company and say, “Could you do a circular bus route?” That brings us to the really crucial point. If we are to improve bus services outside London, we need London’s system for managing bus services—the sector tendering system. That is the crucial point.
The failure of policy is in having a situation whereby a key bus service can be withdrawn without any replacement. Notwithstanding the so called "partnership" with Centro there is still nothing direct that can be done about this.
Centro are looking further at the issue and I may look around for other bus companies who may do a service to cover the missing area as a circular service. We are currently awaiting a response from Centro.