26 January 2012

Official: Stagecoach is cheapest

Independent transport consultants TAS has revealed that Stagecoach is the cheapest bus company in Britain for weekly travel. The headline-grabbing figure quoted is that on average the company is 17.5% cheaper than other operators, meaning those who buy Stagecoach's weekly Megarider tickets save an average of £150 each year.

A recent radio advert on Lincs FM would suggest HQ in Perth has given permission for this data to be given as much publicity as possible. And why not? Stagecoach's average weekly Megarider (or local equivalent) is £13.27; the average of all the others surveyed was £16.09. That's a marked reduction, in the range of 20%.

Yes, I know we could all give a number of fares charged by Stagecoach that are particularly expensive, but that is for another day. Stagecoach is patting itself on the back for offering the cheapest weekly tickets - and by a not inconsiderable amount, it would seem. My only observation is that Stagecoach is often the only operator to provide such an unlimited weekly ticket in a particular area/along a certain flow and so what other operators' ticket options do you compare it to, if one isn't offered?

But, it is these weekly tickets that have the greatest potential to entice motorists from their cars. Offering a ticket with as few strings as possible makes travelling by bus that little bit more straightforward. Coupled with a decent frequency and buses running when potential newcomers want them to, the cost of the weekly Megarider needs to be not slightly cheaper than a week's petrol, but considerably more, in order for the conversion to be seen as an almost 'no brainer'.

Stagecoach was compared against its contemporaries, including smaller groups such as Veolia Transdev, a host of independents and a number of municipals.

Where I would argue with the report is when it states: "Stagecoach consistently has the lowest weekly ticket price and gives the highest discount compared to single fares." The two ought not to be compared. No one - not even the bus novice - buys ten singles every week. Single fares are also jacked up artificially high in order to maximise the average adult fare paid on a route. Keep the singles higher than they would otherwise be and your average fare will be higher than it would otherwise be and that sees a higher concessionary bus pass reimbursement rate than you would otherwise receive.

I know I said I'd save it for another day, but while I'm flowing along this vein, single fares on a number of large operators' services can be extortionate - often due to the margins on the unlimited weeklies being so low. I recently travelled precisely 4.8 miles in an urban environment on a Stagecoach citi service and paid what I believed to be an expensive sum of £2.90. Ten of these (i.e. there and back, five times a day) is £29, so the £13.50 weekly Megarider ticket being sold by that depot is almost 60% cheaper.

Best compare like with like, not against singles.

Stagecoach won the accolade that last time TAS undertook their survey in 2009. Theoretically, the larger the company, the greater the benefit from efficiencies of scale and so the cheaper the day-to-day running costs. Provided this is passed onto the passenger, headline-grabbing awards such as this can be won.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually the comparison of discount over singles is a very relevant figure but not for the reason you suggest. Dealing with fare enquiries one of the more complicated issues is that of people who do no make return trips every day, either they travel one way (getting lifts or similar in the other) or they don't travel every day. Most companies aim for a weekly discount to be cheaper than 5 returns if Stagecoach are pricing it (as in the example stated) as cheaper than 5 singles that effectively means that passengers travelling one way save with a weekly (possibly travelling more often at other times as they already have a ticket) or someone travelling less often will also save (with the same advantages on off-days) from your listed example it is likely that 3 returns brings a saving openning a weekly ticket up to more regular but not frequent travellers and benefiting everyone and as such they should be applauded for doing so.