Latest Busway debacle

Luton Dunstable Busway

Luton Dunstable Busway

Here’s something about the latest Busway debacle, which seems a shame really as many people were happily acknowledging the first 12 months and the positive difference it has made.  What seems to have put a shadow over the many benefits is a claim that the original business case contained figured which were “embellished” and “pumped up”.

I was astonished when I heard a radio interview (BBC 3CR, Iain Lee show) when Cllr Dave Taylor said the original business case for the Luton Dunstable Busway had embellished the projected figures for passenger numbers.  He was quite clear about this.  From memory the passenger numbers were around one million for the last year, compared to three million which was hoped for.

He confirmed the figures have turned out to be considerably lower than previously estimated, as this was the focus of the news story.  Apparently the figures were put together in 2008 and before the recession and therefore didn’t have the benefit of a crystal ball to predict the future. I am not sure how relevant anyway or how much it would effect the passenger numbers

The latest development is rival politician John Young picking up on this and is writing to Luton Borough Council in order to clarify the position.   It has been reported Mr Young has observed a low use of the Busway with buses rarely being used to full capacity.

Today’s development is the National Audit Office will come and take a look at the figures to see what they were based on and see how realistic they might have been.  Whatever the findings might suggest, it is difficult to predict what the outcome will be.  Presumably if the figures were realistic, fine.  If not, it is not as if the Busway could be returned to the shop for a refund.

My own view on this

We must demand the utmost integrity from politicians and Council officers alike.

It is difficult to form a complete view, based simply on one radio interview and subsequent news reports.  Having said that Cllr Taylor was quite clear that figures had been exaggerated and he made no apology for this, almost defending it by claiming it was a legitimate thing to do.

Councillors and Council Officers can naturally be expected to work for the good of the communities they serve.  This might include putting up a good business case for something (like the Busway) which will be an asset to benefit the communities they serve.  There is a fine line between making a good argument for something, which might be in a competitive bid for funding, and being dishonest about it.  Without knowing the full story, it is possible the projected figures may have been stated in all good faith and Councillor Taylor might be mistaken.

I too have noticed the buses are frequently empty or have a handful of passengers.  I do admit I only ever see a limited number of buses and these are not spread evenly through the day or week so I might not have the full picture.

Whatever may apply, the Busway has been constructed, buses are running, cars are still getting stuck on the Busway.  Importantly the cycle track IS being used and it is always a pleasure to see cyclists.  The numbers of cyclists are modest but have certainly grown.  It is a pleasure to see other people using the track for recreation – dog walkers, runners and cyclists all seem to enjoy it, at least around the Blows Downs area in Dunstable.

Perhaps it is these points that could be included in the measure of success, not just the passenger numbers.  It is the recreational activities which can add to the well being of individuals, families and communities almost as “added value”.  It is these added value features which should not be ignored and I dare say, these will continue to be there in a hundred years when rattling old diesel buses are long gone.


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