Thanet Star

Gloag's Revenge?

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).

It's not even true that she makes the buses run on time with disruptions a common occurrence.

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.

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Public Comments

This Helpful Normal comment was left by ju [score: 2]:

lets ditch Stagecoach, plenty more company's out there who will be supported by the people of Thanet, we don't need to spend another penny with #GreedyGloag.
27/05/2014 16:01:18

This Normal comment was left by km [score: 0]:

Thanet council should and must stop subsidising stage coach I wish I could buy diesel for 4_ 5 p a litre tis time to stop making these people even richer at at our demise, greedy greedy people just remember you cannot take it with you .27/5/2014
27/05/2014 16:25:56

This Informative Normal comment was left by James Maskell [score: 3]:

To correct the article, Megariders remain 11.50. I bought one Monday and asked a driver this morning to make sure. The changes applied to singles, returns and day tickets and were 10p or 20p. The Megarider is still good value for unlimited use for 7 days and having picked up one of their credit card style megariders during the November trial, I dont have to worry about a scrunched up sleeve anymore.
28/05/2014 17:28:16

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

I stand corrected. Thank you James.
28/05/2014 17:38:36

This Normal comment was left by Tango and Cash [score: 0]:

I think the reasons for the loss of smaller operators lays in exactly some of the circumstances outlined in your story. For example;

"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"? "

Running unprofitable services is unlikely to place the company operating the service on a sound financial footing, and their eventual demise would really become just a matter of time.

As for profits, your piece states - 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."

by the figures quoted, if bus revenue rose by 6.3% but bus profit only rose by 1.4% then clearly some extra costs have been incurred that equate to something around 5% of revenue. I wouldn't think that a profit uplift of some 1.4% was that onerous. Indeed, on the "megarider" ticket you quote, that would represent a rise of only a little over 16p!

As for "predatory" scheduling, pretty much every bus and coach company big and small, engaged in such practises right through to the mid 90's. Not only on local buses, but on long distance and commuter routes. It's a big grown up world out there, and in business the survival of the fittest will always be the way it works.
31/05/2014 18:46:22

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

You do realise that less profitable routes were subsidised but that councils tend to be unhappy about being used to generate huge profits?
04/06/2014 09:43:26

This Normal comment was left by Brogan Hutchings [score: 0]:

My dad worked for Stagecoach and it was his stories of what it was like that killed my childhood dream of becoming a bus driver. Good job too because they don't earn a very good wage for the hours they have to put in and by all accounts Gloag's company treat them like crap. What I do might not make me rich but it is good work with good people.
04/06/2014 10:04:20

This Normal comment was left by Tango and Cash [score: 0]:

You realise you argue against your.self in your last post Matt? If the route is "less profitable (or unprofitable as you claim in your 1st post), how can it also generate the "huge profits" you allude to in your 9.43.26 post?

Of course Matt, many routes are subsudised. But clearly it wasn't the small pre deregulation companies that philanthropically kept the unpopular little used routes alive from the goodness of their hearts, it was the subsidies that were provided. Thus, with priorities other than keeping little used routes alive, they were pulled by the councils, and the money spent elsewhere.

Thus whether it was Stagecoach that ran the routes, or any of the vast plethora of smaller companies that ran them, the routes would have gone. To try to lay the blame at the feet of Stagecoach, Arriva or any of the large operators is inaccurate, and disingenuous.

Bus driving was never that well paid, and conditions always somewhat lacking, unless you ended up with LT in London. The only real money in buses was in tour work, preferably abroad where a good living could be made.
04/06/2014 16:39:10
 


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