Letter:How to make the buses run on time

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David Bowen is right thatgood rigorous management can work wonders ("Taken for a ride by the number 37", 18 August). But an old management adage is that you can't control what you can't measure, which leads me to ask of London's bus service: who is doing the controlling and what are they measuring?

Since private operators are contractors receiving payment for the services they provide, I suggest that Sir George Young, the Transport Secretary, should be asked to explain who decides service levels, what contractual requirements are in place to ensure the service paid for is provided, who ensures that such requirements are met, and what penalties are exacted if the contract is not delivered.

The problem is not limited to London's bus service. Fragmentation of the train network poses similar dangers to train services. Train Operating Companies will receive payment for loss-making services (most of London's and other provincial rail services come within this category). These Tocs will have limited scope for increasing revenue to improve overall financial performance; that is why they receive a subsidy. As the franchise is on a lower, if not lowest, bidder basis, cost reductions are inevitable.

With no competition, the danger is of a gradual lowering of the quality of service as Tocs cut costs to meet their decreasing annual subsidy during the franchise period. In such an environment the effective measurement of contract conditions placed on franchised public passenger services becomes vital.

Jim Gibbons

Sanderstead, Surrey

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