I share Joan Nicholson’s lack of confidence in Grant Shapps’ recent policy announcement (Craven Herald letters, June 3) but question her conclusion. Her letter also contains several inaccuracies.

“All bus companies were privatised (except London)” – neither is true. Eight companies remain in local council ownership (one ceased trading overnight in January 2020). All the buses in London were privatised, although service levels are controlled by Transport for London.

Ms Nicholson seems to have strong feelings against Stagecoach, which has never operated anywhere near 70 per cent of bus services. Its involvement in railways ended in December 2019.

I’ve never heard of the “Metro-National Transport Company Ltd.” In West Yorkshire, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority (WYPTA) took over the responsibility for integrating bus and rail systems in 1974. Its operating arm was the Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) which absorbed the municipal buses, trading as Metro. At Deregulation all PTEs and bus-owning councils were required to set up arms-length companies to run their buses. WYPTA later voluntarily decided to sell their company, but instead of investing the proceeds in services, bought a large office block in central Leeds; previously it was based in Wakefield but never in Bradford.

I worked for a PTE over the Pennines; its arms-length bus company; a management-employee buy-out; and for Stagecoach. The supposedly halcyon days before “De-Reg” were marked by the waste of public money and an inability to provide the advertised service. An example nearer home is Bradford Interchange. This had an expensive underground bus garage which was abandoned after only a few years’ use.

In Manchester, the PTE employed consultants to introduce contactless payments on buses. After two years of inaction the operators stepped in.

I could go on.

In another newspaper last Saturday I spotted two related articles. Two large schemes promoted by WYCA (successor to WYPTA) are likely to run months or years over schedule, presumably with cost increases. Covid (conveniently) is getting the blame but probably not the whole story. The Mayor of Sheffield points out that bus users in London are subsidised to the tune of £76 a head whereas in Sheffield it’s £5, highlighting that public control (not even ownership) comes with a price tag.

The introduction of De-Regulation was botched, but a safety net was provided to support lightly used services. Local councils have other priorities and I guess the councillors involved don’t use buses themselves. A major factor in the finances of the bus industry is congestion - something which local authorities have long had the power to tackle, but choose not to.

I’ve seen that public ownership has pluses and minuses. I don’t pretend the De-Regulated system is perfect, but public control does not encourage innovation and in the past has arguably hastened the industry’s decline. Its problems are far more complex than ownership. The best – and most cost-effective - way forward involves both the public and private sectors, in partnership, with proper oversight.

But first, we need an open discussion, free from political dogma and blinkered views.

Chas Allen

Bishopdale Court