22 October 2010


Did I dream it? A call to m'colleague assured me that I had been taking notice. Coach Service Operators Grant (CSOG) is to reduce, following the details of the Comprehensive Spending Review being made known on Wednesday. We were both pretty sure operators providing a scheduled coach service claim Bus Service Operators Grant - BSOG - identically to how an urban bus operator would. A swift search online proved fruitless. Even typing 'CSOG' in the search box on the DfT's website threw up nothing obvious.

Perhaps, then, it's a new term used to describe the new, slightly lower fuel duty rebate coach operators, whose services are part-registered as local stopping, are to receive. Since the loophole surrounding free concessionary travel was tightened last year, many in the bus industry have felt that companies such as National Express have been receiving the best of both worlds: claiming BSOG for their registered sections of route while at the same time having no obligation to accept free concessionary bus passes.

All other operators have to accept those entitled to concessionary travel aboard their services for free provided they claim BSOG. There have been a few cases when operators have deliberately chosen not to register a route as a local stopping service, to then not claim BSOG and then legitimately charge those over 60 to travel. Precious few examples exist as, despite the protestations of operators up and down the land, BSOG is the subsidy that matters most and easily offsets any drop in revenue felt from the introduction of free travel.

BSOG also helps to ensure *all* passengers receive travel as cheaply as possible, with operators receiving a rebate on all but 20% of the duty they pay on their diesel and reflecting this saving in all fare categories. BSOG is to change from the financial year commencing April 2012 with a further 20% reduction on the amount of duty claimable but importantly will remain unchanged for a further three years, offering some level of certainty for bus companies. This is BSOG, of course, not CSOG; claimants of which are to be less protected.

*UPDATE* From anonymous: National Express Limited, the name of the company operating their coach services around the UK, claimed £3.5mil in BSOG in the year ending December 2009. If your article is correct, amounts like this will be much reduced next year.

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