Competition vs Monopoly
#1
Competition vs Monopoly
This has been something I've been thinking about lately, there's generally an obsession with GoNorthEast on here going into Stagecoach and Arriva areas but does competition actually create a better or worse bus service.

Based on the North East I kinda want to say no. There's only really 3 areas with real competition against each other; North Tyneside, South Shields and Sunderland and arguably they're the worst 3 areas in the North East especially in terms of subsidies or depots pretty much being closed (South Shields) whereas the areas which are monopolies generally have a better service ie. West End of Newcastle, Consett / Stanley, Gateshead, SE Northumberland etc.

This is both terms of the fleet age, the frequency of routes and the areas where most subsidies are.

I'm guessing it's down to the fact they can't make as much money as everything is shared so it's not as important to invest there as there's other places they could make more money so it just leads to constant downgrades.

Thoughts?

#2
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(30 Jul 2020, 10:08 pm)Storx Wrote: This has been something I've been thinking about lately, there's generally an obsession with GoNorthEast on here going into Stagecoach and Arriva areas but does competition actually create a better or worse bus service.

Based on the North East I kinda want to say no. There's only really 3 areas with real competition against each other; North Tyneside, South Shields and Sunderland and arguably they're the worst 3 areas in the North East especially in terms of subsidies or depots pretty much being closed (South Shields) whereas the areas which are monopolies generally have a better service ie. West End of Newcastle, Consett / Stanley, Gateshead, SE Northumberland etc.

I'm guessing it's down to the fact they can't make as much money as everything is shared so it's not as important to invest there as there's other places they could make more money so it just leads to constant downgrades.

Thoughts?

It would be interesting to compare the prices in North Tyneside and Sunderland to those areas where there is a monopoly. 

Then there's the 'raw meat' story from a few years back http://www.passengertransport.co.uk/2011...-raw-meat/
'Illegitimis non carborundum'

#3
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
Funny you mention South Shields. The loop (dots) services are still only every 15 minutes from Stagecoach - not sure about the 17/18 or Es as I don't use them anymore - and the 20s are still hourly on an evening, except for Sunday, where the Nexus funding means they're half hourly on an evening, but only Sunday. Doesn't seem like competition is driving much here.
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#4
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(30 Jul 2020, 10:11 pm)Andreos1 Wrote: It would be interesting to compare the prices in North Tyneside and Sunderland to those areas where there is a monopoly. 

Then there's the 'raw meat' story from a few years back http://www.passengertransport.co.uk/2011...-raw-meat/

Can remember the raw meat stuff very well, didn't realise it was so long ago though, how times flies.

They're slightly cheaper in North Tyneside I believe I know that GNE have the North Tyne tickets for £4.

But it's a bit pointless when you don't have a service. The area below in red either don't have a service to Newcastle at all, it's only hourly or it takes over an hour which is unacceptable really. Yet Rake Lane and the Coast north of Whitley has 7 buses an hour... You can get a bus from Durham to Newcastle quicker than Marden to Newcastle and you can't even change to the 306/308/309/310 without travelling in the wrong direction for 15 minutes. If you took the Metro out and went buses only it would be even worse.

I don't believe there's anywhere with a Monopoly with a service that bad.

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#5
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(30 Jul 2020, 10:47 pm)Storx Wrote: Can remember the raw meat stuff very well, didn't realise it was so long ago though, how times flies.

They're slightly cheaper in North Tyneside I believe I know that GNE have the North Tyne tickets for £4.

But it's a bit pointless when you don't have a service. The area below in red either don't have a service to Newcastle at all, it's only hourly or it takes over an hour which is unacceptable really. Yet Rake Lane and the Coast north of Whitley has 7 buses an hour... You can get a bus from Durham to Newcastle quicker than Marden to Newcastle and you can't even change to the 306/308/309/310 without travelling in the wrong direction for 15 minutes. If you took the Metro out and went buses only it would be even worse.

I don't believe there's anywhere with a Monopoly with a service that bad.

Not to keep raising the same point but I don't think Hartlepool's Stagecoach monopoly has worked out too well for them

#6
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
I personally think it has to be a mix of both, having every route have multiple operators is a terrible idea, there wouldn't be enough money to go around, similarly having one operator for an entire region wouldn't work either. They'd have no incentive to make improvements and standards would drop.

I think 'key' locations need to be served by multiple operators, to allow easy travel to different parts of the region without having to purchase mutli-operator tickets. But then multi-operator tickets should be available should you want to visit further afield.  I would define a key location as a town or city that someone from an outside area may want to travel to. These would include places like Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Metrocentre etc. 

Whilst I know it would never happen, in an ideal world those key services would accept any operator ticket to reduce the need for identical services running alongside each other competing for passengers.

So say you want to travel from Crook to Newcastle, you would buy an Arriva Day Ticket on the X46 to Durham, you could then use GNE's X21 to travel to Newcastle. 
Similarly, if you want to travel from Consett to Darlington, you could buy a GNE Day Ticket on the X15, then use the same ticket on the Arriva 7. 

But if you then wanted to travel around the local areas you would have to purchase a multi-operator ticket.

#7
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 12:52 am)an James101 Wrote: Not to keep raising the same point but I don't think Hartlepool's Stagecoach monopoly has worked out too well for them

tbf. I wouldn't say Hartlepool is a monopoly if anything it's the ugly side of competition. You have one operator (used to be 2) which has the 3 long distance profitable bus routes to Sunderland, Peterlee, Durham etc. then a second operator left with local routes to a place no-one really wants to be at. It's no wonder Stagecoach struggles a bit. You've also got the train to fight with aswell.

Then you've got the problem you can't use a ticket on the 23 then onto the 3 to the south side of Hartlepool for example without having an Arriva and Stagecoach ticket.

(31 Jul 2020, 6:30 am)streetdeckfan Wrote: I personally think it has to be a mix of both, having every route have multiple operators is a terrible idea, there wouldn't be enough money to go around, similarly having one operator for an entire region wouldn't work either. They'd have no incentive to make improvements and standards would drop.

I think 'key' locations need to be served by multiple operators, to allow easy travel to different parts of the region without having to purchase mutli-operator tickets. But then multi-operator tickets should be available should you want to visit further afield.  I would define a key location as a town or city that someone from an outside area may want to travel to. These would include places like Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Metrocentre etc. 

Whilst I know it would never happen, in an ideal world those key services would accept any operator ticket to reduce the need for identical services running alongside each other competing for passengers.

So say you want to travel from Crook to Newcastle, you would buy an Arriva Day Ticket on the X46 to Durham, you could then use GNE's X21 to travel to Newcastle. 
Similarly, if you want to travel from Consett to Darlington, you could buy a GNE Day Ticket on the X15, then use the same ticket on the Arriva 7. 

But if you then wanted to travel around the local areas you would have to purchase a multi-operator ticket.

I definitely agree on the multi-ticket operator from experience. Living just across the border in Northumberland a explorer ticket is the cheapest ticket to travel most places and it's not cheap but it's cheaper than buying an Arriva, Metro and GNE ticket.

On the one company per area I dunno about that its what I was thinking. The areas arguably with the better networks; Blackpool, Transdev areas, Stagecoach Inverness generally are monopolies and none of them have over the top fares or ancient fleets but then areas with messy competition such as Manchester are on a freefall.

Even in our local area each of 3 big operators best areas GNE - Consett, Stagecoach - West End Newcastle, Arriva - Northumbia are all monopolies and have been forever bar the little war between Arriva and GNE 10 year ago and all have reasonably fares and the best fleets in the area. The X-Lines network is nearly every route in the Consett area for example.

#8
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 8:47 am)Storx Wrote: I definitely agree on the multi-ticket operator from experience. Living just across the border in Northumberland a explorer ticket is the cheapest ticket to travel most places and it's not cheap but it's cheaper than buying an Arriva, Metro and GNE ticket.

On the one company per area I dunno about that its what I was thinking. The areas arguably with the better networks; Blackpool, Transdev areas, Stagecoach Inverness generally are monopolies and none of them have over the top fares or ancient fleets but then areas with messy competition such as Manchester are on a freefall.

Even in our local area each of 3 big operators best areas GNE - Consett, Stagecoach - West End Newcastle, Arriva - Northumbia are all monopolies and have been forever bar the little war between Arriva and GNE 10 year ago and all have reasonably fares and the best fleets in the area. The X-Lines network is nearly every route in the Consett area for example.

I suppose you can look at it both ways.

If it's a monopoly, one company is getting all the money, so has plenty to invest in keeping the fleet up to date, plus, it's not as if there is no competition, there's always taking the car. And if you're the sole operator, your only competition is the car so you have to keep standards high. Or it can realise it can keep buses on the road well past their sell by date as passengers have no other options but to keep using them.

I think it's dangerous to look at through the lens of 'monopoly bad, competition good', you've got to look at the context of the situation.
If there aren't enough passengers to fully support two operators, then you're going to end up with two crap services.

Similarly, I think franchising can be both good and bad. Look at London for example, they have a fantastic public transport network, but it's heavily subsidised. If they were to try and actually run it for profit (or even to break even) people would be very surprised how expensive tickets would be!

#9
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 9:08 am)streetdeckfan Wrote: I suppose you can look at it both ways.

If it's a monopoly, one company is getting all the money, so has plenty to invest in keeping the fleet up to date, plus, it's not as if there is no competition, there's always taking the car. And if you're the sole operator, your only competition is the car so you have to keep standards high. Or it can realise it can keep buses on the road well past their sell by date as passengers have no other options but to keep using them.

I think it's dangerous to look at through the lens of 'monopoly bad, competition good', you've got to look at the context of the situation.
If there aren't enough passengers to fully support two operators, then you're going to end up with two crap services.

Similarly, I think franchising can be both good and bad. Look at London for example, they have a fantastic public transport network, but it's heavily subsidised. If they were to try and actually run it for profit (or even to break even) people would be very surprised how expensive tickets would be!

Yeah I can't disagree with that tbh. Have to be fair and mention the train aswell as Burnley, Blackpool etc have a decent rail or tram service which they have to compete against aswell sadly something which is pretty much non-existant up here in most areas.

There's definitely a better case going further towards the monopoly side rather than full scale competition though as I can't really think of anywhere with full on competition with a good network - is there anywhere? Suppose it depends on the operator though ie. not First as Stoke residents probably disagree with that.

The London franchising network doesn't really work in reality tbf, would be horrendous up here as Nexus or NECA or whoever ran it would just make a balls of it. Not sure how you could just tell GNE to disappear aswell without large sums of money without a backlash of some sort.

#10
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 9:33 am)Storx Wrote: Yeah I can't disagree with that tbh. Have to be fair and mention the train aswell as Burnley, Blackpool etc have a decent rail or tram service which they have to compete against aswell sadly something which is pretty much non-existant up here in most areas.

There's definitely a better case going further towards the monopoly side rather than full scale competition though as I can't really think of anywhere with full on competition with a good network - is there anywhere? Suppose it depends on the operator though ie. not First as Stoke residents probably disagree with that.

The London franchising network doesn't really work in reality tbf, would be horrendous up here as Nexus or NECA or whoever ran it would just make a balls of it. Not sure how you could just tell GNE to disappear aswell without large sums of money without a backlash of some sort.

I quite like the arrangement we have up here tbh, the only thing that's missing is a good value multi-operator ticket that works outside of T&W.

With the ticket acceptance between GNE and Arriva at the minute, I've actually found it a lot easier to travel about in Bishop. Before lockdown, I'd get the X21 into Bishop, get a bacon sandwich from Cooplands, then catch the next X21 up north. But now, I've just been catching the Arriva 6 into Bishop then changing to the X21, saving at least half an hour. 
If they were to keep something similar in place I'd be very happy, even if I had to pay a bit more for the ticket.

#11
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
As far as i'm concerned a monopoly run for the benefit of shareholders just give the company the easy out to treat its customers with contempt. Give me a public sector monopoly run for the benefit of the customers/employees any day.

#12
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
I think there's potential up in the North East for a good compromise, firstly a better multi-operator ticket for the whole region using the Network One model, although with smart cards. The second thing is having the likes of Nexus - who I think should run the whole of the North East and not just Tyne & Wear, and you know, actually be good - they should run non profitable services better, with better integration with the existing network, even if that means pay companies to add extra bits onto the end of existing routes. I'm thinking the likes of the 5 still going to North Shields rather than a separate route, and rather than having an H2, pay GNE to extend the 26 to Hebburn. It might cost more, but it makes it better for customers. This isn't even to dig at GCT, fine, have them run their breadvans on non profitable services, but make it easier for passengers to just tap a smart card on their services and not have to worry about not being able to get tickets on the major operator in the area for any other journey.

#13
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 2:19 pm)deanmachine Wrote: I think there's potential up in the North East for a good compromise, firstly a better multi-operator ticket for the whole region using the Network One model, although with smart cards. The second thing is having the likes of Nexus - who I think should run the whole of the North East and not just Tyne & Wear, and you know, actually be good - they should run non profitable services better, with better integration with the existing network, even if that means pay companies to add extra bits onto the end of existing routes. I'm thinking the likes of the 5 still going to North Shields rather than a separate route, and rather than having an H2, pay GNE to extend the 26 to Hebburn. It might cost more, but it makes it better for customers. This isn't even to dig at GCT, fine, have them run their breadvans on non profitable services, but make it easier for passengers to just tap a smart card on their services and not have to worry about not being able to get tickets on the major operator in the area for any other journey.

I understand and agree with the point about paying GNE etc to run their own services but the catch-22 is it gives no incentive to run anything in evenings as Nexus will just fund it anyway. Least by giving GCT and the likes the routes it puts pressure on GNE running the service instead. If that makes sense.The 319 should be extended back onto the 9 like it always has been though rather than the 5.

#14
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 9:33 am)Storx Wrote: The London franchising network doesn't really work in reality tbf, would be horrendous up here as Nexus or NECA or whoever ran it would just make a balls of it. Not sure how you could just tell GNE to disappear aswell without large sums of money without a backlash of some sort.

Got any proof to back that statement up? GNE wouldn't have to disappear, they'd just get paid per mile and their fuel subsidised. Franchising can work anywhere. it's just the organisation in charge can either make a mess of it or a success of it. There would be large upfront costs which seem unattractive at first however it is no different to when the first £350,000 Hybrids first showed up and they now pay for themselves. Nexus, by all means, are awful but put the power in someone else' hand and they could do well with it. 

The London system works but Tfl have had their subsidies cut, but they make the network attractive to travel on.
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#15
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 4:42 pm)Big O Wrote: Got any proof to back that statement up? GNE wouldn't have to disappear, they'd just get paid per mile and their fuel subsidised. Franchising can work anywhere. it's just the organisation in charge can either make a mess of it or a success of it. There would be large upfront costs which seem unattractive at first however it is no different to when the first £350,000 Hybrids first showed up and they now pay for themselves. Nexus, by all means, are awful but put the power in someone else' hand and they could do well with it. 

The London system works but Tfl have had their subsidies cut, but they make the network attractive to travel on.
No bus company (private owned) will simply hand over their business to franchising without essentially the franchisee buying it first. A bus route is effectively their product in much the same way Tesco sells bread. You wouldn't walk into Tesco and take all of the bread to sell it yourself without actually paying for the right to do so?

Only then, do the likes of GNE, Stagecoach and Arriva essentially bid to operate work.

Nobody yet has managed to get franchising in place and running because of the cost associated to get it off the ground. Doesn't matter how much propaganda or positive words said, even Manchester haven't managed it yet.

#16
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 2:54 pm)Storx Wrote: I understand and agree with the point about paying GNE etc to run their own services but the catch-22 is it gives no incentive to run anything in evenings as Nexus will just fund it anyway. Least by giving GCT and the likes the routes it puts pressure on GNE running the service instead. If that makes sense.The 319 should be extended back onto the 9 like it always has been though rather than the 5.

I didn't necessarily mean to give back them their own services on the evening, just to add on unprofitable extensions such as the, 925, 938, 319 and H2, rather than having basically pointless buses that aren't use to many people, and make better links. Might make some of the smaller services more attractive having them on the end of a bigger bus route, getting more people out of cars, which is what we should be doing anyways?

#17
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 6:48 pm)deanmachine Wrote: I didn't necessarily mean to give back them their own services on the evening, just to add on unprofitable extensions such as the, 925, 938, 319 and H2, rather than having basically pointless buses that aren't use to many people, and make better links. Might make some of the smaller services more attractive having them on the end of a bigger bus route, getting more people out of cars, which is what we should be doing anyways?

Oh right that makes sense yeah I agree with that tbh. The Whitley locals are easily routes which this could help with that. The W2 could easily be tagged onto the 1 or 306 and the W1 could easily be tagged onto something aswell both routes in their current form are a bit of a waste of time.

You could even potentially merge the W3 and 319 together and have a longer route through the tunnel; okay it wouldn't serve N. Shields anymore but they have the ferry.

@Big O Robin sums it up perfectly so I wont repeat it.

#18
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 6:40 pm)RobinHood Wrote: No bus company (private owned) will simply hand over their business to franchising without essentially the franchisee buying it first. A bus route is effectively their product in much the same way Tesco sells bread. You wouldn't walk into Tesco and take all of the bread to sell it yourself without actually paying for the right to do so?

Only then, do the likes of GNE, Stagecoach and Arriva essentially bid to operate work.

Nobody yet has managed to get franchising in place and running because of the cost associated to get it off the ground. Doesn't matter how much propaganda or positive words said, even Manchester haven't managed it yet.

Wasn't disputing that but its a bit obvious that the franchisee would have to purchase the product and its a long term project but something in years to come would be profitable providing the right people run it and I'm sure some companies wouldn't turn down cash upfront for their services especially during this time.

I'm sure Manchester has started, by the way, some Diamond North West and Stagecoach routes have already swapped hands as a result of awards. It's not propaganda, it works when it is managed correctly. There are either incentives for good service levels or penalising for poor service levels. Both of which will drive up the customer experience.

#19
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 9:24 pm)Big O Wrote: Wasn't disputing that but its a bit obvious that the franchisee would have to purchase the product and its a long term project but something in years to come would be profitable providing the right people run it and I'm sure some companies wouldn't turn down cash upfront for their services especially during this time.

I'm sure Manchester has started, by the way, some Diamond North West and Stagecoach routes have already swapped hands as a result of awards. It's not propaganda, it works when it is managed correctly. There are either incentives for good service levels or penalising for poor service levels. Both of which will drive up the customer experience.

Or, as we've seen with the trains companies, it may just end up with operators overbidding on things they can't deliver. It's not as if franchising is the be all and end all.

While in an ideal world franchising would work, I just can't possibly see a way for it to work up here, it'd end up doing more harm than good

#20
RE: Competition vs Monopoly
(31 Jul 2020, 9:52 pm)streetdeckfan Wrote: Or, as we've seen with the trains companies, it may just end up with operators overbidding on things they can't deliver. It's not as if franchising is the be all and end all.

While in an ideal world franchising would work, I just can't possibly see a way for it to work up here, it'd end up doing more harm than good

Bus franchising and Train franchising are quite different. In terms of buses, the transport body would set the service levels, bus specification and route(s) and operators would bid for the work tendered. The most attractive bid wins. Also, another thing to consider is that before awarding Tfl will go around to the garage to assess the suitability of the operator obtaining the new work.