Letter: The deregulation of London's buses

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Sir: Your leading article on London bus deregulation (4 May) was a welcome contribution, not least for its effort to be even-handed.

Deregulation outside London has produced real advantages for passengers. They include an increase in bus mileage of 20 per cent and operating costs falling by more than a third. There is no reason not to deliver these benefits to Londoners, provided always we are sensible about the safeguards that have to be in place to ensure the advantages are not eclipsed by disadvantages. We are now working to ensure that when deregulation in London is introduced it successfully delivers the advantages of competition and enhanced customer choice.

Your paper has touched on some of the problems, imagined and real. We are consulting widely to ensure that we get the transition to deregulation in London right. This includes discussing with operators how Travelcard can best be developed to meet the needs of customers and operators in the deregulated future. We have made clear that we will safeguard the London-wide concessionary fares scheme, and the subsidising of socially necessary, but unprofitable, routes.

Deregulation does not mean no regulation. Sensible protections in tandem with free market philosophy can produce even better results than we are achieving with tendering. I recall that when that idea was first proposed it encountered similar objections to those raised over deregulation. Tendering is an acknowledged success. Deregulation, sensibly handled, will be equally successful.

Yours faithfully,

STEVEN NORRIS

Minister for Transport in London

The Department of Transport

London, SW1

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