The economics are brutal”. David Bradford, managing director of National Express West Midlands, told the recent Young Bus Managers conference held in Birmingham. He was explaining how Britain’s largest bus company was responding to the challenges of life after Covid with revenue still sluggish (93% of pre-Covid) while costs are escalating (125% of pre-Covid) not least due to a 21% pay deal for staff following a six day “all out strike” as well as no letup in increases across other cost headings.

Brutal is certainly one way of describing it, but listening to David’s upbeat assessment of the opportunities ahead I came away with confidence it won’t be long before politicians around the country will see the light and start demanding a “West Midlands style bus system” instead of constantly clamouring for a “London style bus system”.

For example, National Express West Midlands introduced ticket price reductions averaging 6% in July 2021 with savings up to £250 a year for regular commuters, leading to fare paying patronage being 9% better than before. You don’t get that in London, nor will you in Manchester.

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