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Assisted Travel Schemes Worrying Commissioners

26th February 1960, Page 173
26th February 1960
Page 173
Page 173, 26th February 1960 — Assisted Travel Schemes Worrying Commissioners
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THE South-eastern Traffic Commis' sioners are concerned at the number of assisted travel schemes in the Berkshire area. Announcing this at Reading last week, Mr. H. J. Thom, the chairman, said they had a most detrimental effect on the ability of the regular service but and coach operators to retain un remunerative services in the rural areas, and the Commissioners repeatedly had brought the Minister's attention to their view. So far, however, they had achieved nothing. Perhaps, he said, the Rural Grants Board Committee would express some opinion "on the matter.

The Commissioners heard an application by Pangbourne Coaches, Ltd., to run a new express carriage service from Reading to the Central Ordnance Depot at Didcot 20 miles away, under contract to the Royal Army Service Corps, Bulford.

There was an objection from Chiltern Queens, Ltd., of Woodcote, on the grounds that they could provide an adequate stage carriage service.

Mr. C. L. Whitnell, managing director of Pangbourne Coaches, said the service he wanted to provide was solely for the employees at the ordnance depot.

Questioned by Mr. E. C. E. Barrett, director of Chiltern Queens, he said those using it would pay the Didcot authorities a nominal Ss. a week up to a salary level of E705, and thereafter 7s. 6d. He had been assured that those sums would not be exceeded without reference to him. They worked out below the monthly season-ticket rate laid down for the Thames Valley Traction Co., Ltd.

Inroads on Stage Services

Mr. Barrett said he wanted to impress on the Commissioners the inroads which were being made on stage carriage services by the operation of assisted travel schemes.

If the application were granted, the cream of the traffic would be taken at peak traffic times.

In addition, when licences were applied for, it was usual to show the fares to be charged, because, under the Act, if they were less than Is. it became a stage carriage service. It was important that it should be known to the operator, who, he submitted, was responsible for complying with the conditions of the licence. The Didcot authorities could in no way be held responsible.

His company had written to the Didcot authorities asking for a list of the persons authorized to travel under the scheme and for a table of fares from the various boarding points.

They had received the reply that there was no necessity for a passenger list to be supplied because the bus steward would be responsible for discriminating between authorized and non-authorized passengers, and that because the assisted travel scheme was not a stage • service there was no table of fares. Mr. Barrett submitted that unless the authorities supplied this essential information, the operator could not comply with the requirements of his licence.

There was a good deal of " looseness " in the whole system, he contended, and said it was forting operators to withdraw uneconomic services because their margins on the more remunerative routes were decreasing due to loss of traffic.

The chairman said, in the Commissioners' interpretation, no fares were being charged. The applicant was providing his vehicle on a contract basis.

In all such cases the Commissioners made a condition to try to ensure that none of the passengers was being charged more than he would be on a monthly season ticket rate basis, but they could not place a duty on the applicant to enforce it, and they could not enforce it themselves. The condition was a "pious hope."

"We consider in this matter that our jurisdiction is being usurped by the people entering into the contract, but we have failed to make that point with the Minister," he added.

The existence of assisted travel schemes and the award of a licence on the basis of the lowest tender was in many cases taking away revenue from people who provided a regular service in the rural districts.

The application was granted together with a similar one relating to an express carriage service to the ordnance depot from Pangbourne, which was unopposed.

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