MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced changes to the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) which aims to stop bus companies claiming extra subsidies to run rail replacement services.
BSOG is designed to help bus companies keep fares down on regular local bus services, but has been claimed by some firms to run rail replacement services when engineering works are being carried out on the network.
While companies have been able to do this under the old rules, Norman says it is a questionable practice as train operators are already subsidised by Network Rail when work is taking place on the network. It has estimated that this loophole has cost the taxpayer around £2million a year.
Norman said, “I have been campaigning for over half a decade to reduce the use of rail replacement bus services. If passengers buy a train ticket they expect to get on a train, not a bus, and it is just so infuriating when you turn up to the station and see the signs directing you to the replacement bus. There hardly seems to be a Sunday throughout most of the year when there is not some rail replacement bus in operation. And the Seaford – Newhaven line has been regularly out on Sundays in recent months.
“The BSOG formula inherited from the last government meant that it was essentially making it easier for train companies to stick on bus replacements because they were being compensated by Network Rail, and then the bus company was being subsidised through BSOG. In many cases the train company and the bus company are part of the same umbrella group so by removing the loophole we will ensure that there are no double subsidies.
“I hope this change will push train operating companies to reduce their over reliance on buses and instead give passengers exactly what they have paid for.”