20 August 2009: We recently ran a competition to find the most expensive bus fare in the country. But why are bus fares so high?
One of the reasons is that in some areas, a big bus company has a monopoly - passengers have no other option so fares can just keep going up.
The Office of Fair Trading today published its study looking at competition in the bus market. It concluded that more competition is needed to improve services and reduce fares.
But we're not so sure. Sometimes competition between bus companies, on the road, is a really bad idea. 'Bus wars', where buses chase each other up and down the street competing for passengers, can be very disruptive. And once the winner has driven the loser out of town, they can put up fares again anyway.
We think, where the free market isn't working, the local transport authority must step in and use its powers to improve services. That might mean regulating the bus network through quality contracts, working in partnership with bus companies or commissioning services from newer, smaller bus companies.
The Local Transport Act gave transport authorities a big opportunity to improve things for passengers. If the Government supports authorities in using these new powers, passengers might get a better deal.