Trial Areas, where stage carriage bus services were deregulated, were designated in parts of Norfolk, Herford and Worcester, and Devon, following the Transport Act 1980. All three areas were mainly rural, Hereford being the largest town in any of them. Hereford and Worcester County Council adopted a new revenue support policy, awarding contracts for subsidised bus services by competitive tender. This resulted in a transfer of services between operators, with a substantial saving in total revenue support, but little overall change in the rural bus network. There was considerable competition between unsubsidised services, mainly in Hereford but also on some inter-urban routes, with dramatic fare reductions, frequency increases and continual service changes. In the other countries revenue support policies were unaltered, and councils looked to operators to take initiatives in developing new services. The resulting changes in Norfolk and Devon were on a very small scale, and insufficient to prevent a slow overall rate of decline in rural bus services. In itself, deregulation of bus services appears to have had little effect in rural areas, but is has led to lower fares and more frequent services in the town of Hereford and on some inter-urban routes. This competition appears to be unstable, and it is not yet clear what its long-term effects may be. (A)

Want to know more about this project?