Monday, September 15, 2008

Obvious if Unintended Consequences

On my morning in Manchester, a wonderfully funny news item was covered on the TV news.
It appears there is a serious problem on the buses in England - they are over-full of old people, displacing and making travel more difficult for the under-60s.
And why? It has to do with this rather odd (to my mind) policy:

If you are resident in England and are aged 60 or over or are 'eligible disabled' you are entitled to England-wide concessionary bus travel.
Since 2006 you have been entitled to the statutory minimum concession of free local bus travel in your area from 9.30 am to 11.00 pm on Monday to Friday and at any time during weekends and public holidays - and this will continue. Since 1 April 2008 you are also entitled to free local bus travel in all other areas of England during these off-peak times.

Local authorities may offer extra benefits to their residents as part of their concessionary scheme – for example, free or reduced off-peak tram or rail travel, or free bus travel before 9.30 am Monday to Friday.

However, these additional benefits will normally only be available to that region’s own residents. So if you visit an area that offers additional services, you probably won’t be entitled to them – make sure you check first with the relevant authority.

The report was done from a bus full of happy and enthusiastic over-60s heading on an excursion to some lovely place far from their homes; there was also a discussion with a local councilor (also over 60 and enjoying a free ride). The local councils are apparently directly responsible for the costs, with some kickback from the central government, which the councils generally say is inadequate. I expect they are right, as even the reporters of the item seemed surprised at this new mass vacationing of seniors, and I imagine the responsible politicians have roughly the same economic ignorance as the typical journalist. Price something at zero and watch the amount demanded grow!

Now you are right to think that I regard this policy as somewhat foolish. On the other hand, I would pledge my vote in the upcoming Canadian election to any party that promises to put a similar policy in place in Canada by next January!

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