Is Ann Gloag, perhaps, exacting her revenge on the people of Thanet by raising bus fares?
The prices of Stagecoach bus tickets has gone up again despite relatively stable fuel and insurance prices of late. This increase is well above the rate of inflation and follows closely on the closure of Manston and the bankrupting of another bus rival.
Ann Gloag made her fortune with Stagecoach and then brought Manston airport for a pound and turned down Seven Million times what she paid for it. She did that because some people in KCC and TDC might have given her the impression that she would be given the freedom to build houses there which would be worth a lot, lot more (to her, not us).
Having lied to us (whether deliberately or retrospectively by changing her mind) about intending to run the airport for several years questions are also being asked regarding the cosy relationship her bus service has with the local council. For example how can we trust Gloag's company to deliver fair value for money with her buses?
The Express reports that in 2012 they raised their prices by an average of 5% each year and that by mid 2013
boosted bus revenue by 6.3 per cent to £966.7 million, while bus operating profit lifted 1.4 per cent to £165 million. overall for the Stagecoach group
profit rose 8.1 per cent to £218.9million
One has to ask why are the cost of bus fares raising in a way that outpaces inflation and income increases in Kent's poorest area?
The claim is that fares must increase because of an increase in fuel and insurance costs yet with the ever increasing profit even when passenger numbers have fallen suggests that Ms Gloag's company is not being entirely straight with us.
Gloag and her brother
ruthlessly exploited the opportunities afforded by Margaret Thatcher's deregulation of local transport in the 1980s says Bob Chaundy of the BBC. Chaundy tells us that they would carefully scheduled low cost and free buses to arrive just before or just after rivals until they drove them out of business and that the
Monopolies and Mergers Commission later described these tactics as "predatory, deplorable and against the public interest".
Does anyone remember (family run) Thanet Bus company and other operations (Island Hopper, anyone) that offered services sometimes to areas Stagecoach would not touch due to being "unprofitable"?
One might have been forgiven for thinking that this good competition was in the public interest and the extended range of services was good for us. Mrs Gloag disagreed and drove them out of business. After that we have faced price hikes year on year. Now for groups of friends it is often much cheaper to split a taxi than use "public" transport.
The Megarider ticket when introduced was £5 and granted week long travel on Stagecoach buses in Thanet. In today's money that's roughly £8.39 yet before the most recent price increase todays price was £12 (up from £11.50 earlier this year).
Likewise Gloag's company makes a good deal of profit from school children by suspending the child fare before 9am and charging children and parents full adult fare. Travel on buses can now cost Thanet's unemployed over 16% of their total income. (based on a single persons JSA rate).
Now the second airport that Gloag and her brother have brought into might be turned into a giant garden. Just to spite us, perhaps?
Is it time we sent these siblings packing?
It is about time TDC invited other bus companies into the area. I am not talking about small family run enterprises that Gloag's company are so good at putting out of business but transport companies that can offer us choice and help drive the out of control prices back down to sane levels.