Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Pensioners Bus Fares: Manipulating the Figures

"Politicians use statistics in the same way that a drunk uses lamp-posts—for support rather than illumination" - Andrew Lang

I've just had a reply to my Freedom of Information request. My questions and comments:

As Eddie Noel, Minister of Transport and Technical Services, has proposed that pensioners should pay for buses travelling at peak times, please could TTS or other relevant authority supply me with:

Question: Statistics on numbers of pensioners travelling in peak time (which I assume the Minister must have)


The most recent quarter for which data is available covers the period January to March 2015. Using the definition of “peak time” as the one and a half hours from 07:00 to 08:30, on weekdays only (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and bank holidays), the average number of recorded bus passenger journeys using a concessionary travel card is typically 120 per working day, equivalent to nearly 4 fully seated single decker commuter buses.


This is an extremely manipulative use of statistics. It falls into the presentation of statistics which make an impact but don't tell you anything useful, like the fact that the average person goes to the toilet 2,040 times per year, or that the average person drinks 12,000 cups of coffee in a lifetime.

The image of 4 fully seated single decker buses filled with pensioners at peak times every day has a similar impact, but it is just as useless in telling you the spread of pensioners across all bus routes.

While the figures are correct, to put it in a better perspective - which shows how much spin there is - there are around 48 buses taking people into town during the period from 0.70 to 08.30 - as most routes have more than one bus travelling in.

Even assuming that we only count inward travel - 120 /48 gives approximately 2.5 pensioners per bus. That's not a lot, and if we consider all routes - after all, not all travellers are making an inward journey to St Helier, the figure drops to around 1.5 pensioners per bus, even less.

Of course, some buses routes - the 15, for example, may have more pensioners because that route has around 6 buses going inwards at peak times. So the figure of 2.5 per bus is an average, but it gives a better idea of the number of pensioners at peak times than the image of 4 fully seated buses - and don't forget that the 15 is in fact usually a double decker as well.

Question: Definition of what is meant by “peak time” in this particular context


As indicated in the answer to the first question, “peak time” in terms of bus travel is taken to mean the one and a half hour period between 07:00 and 08:30 on a working weekday.


It is useful to know the Minister is only counting morning peak time.

Question: Rate at which pensioners would be expected to pay if not full fare


In the proposed States' Medium Term Financial Plan 2016-19 (MTFP), there are references to concessionary fares on page 70:

"Increases in bus ridership have meant that expenditure on concessionary fares for pensioners and the school bus service is significantly in excess of budget. Concessionary fares are a substantial contractual cost of the service and these costs will continue to increase year on year, unless changes are made to the concessionary travel rules".

and on page 85:

"Concessionary bus fares are also under consideration to maximise bus capacity during the morning peak period".

In the light of budgetary pressures, a peak hour charge remains a more preferable policy option than reducing services. However as no policy decision has been made, it is not possible to indicate the fare level that would be charged for a concessionary pass during the morning peak, were such a proposal to be formally put forward.


Even if pensioners paid full price we are talking less than £1,000 per week which is alleged loss in revenue, say £50,000 per year. This is a pitiful saving if that is what is intended. That is not even half of Philip Ozouf’s expenses account! It is clear that the Minister is scraping the bottom of the barrel for savings.

Activity, as Sir Humphrey says in “Yes Minister” is politician's substitute for achievement. In the absence of any really effective cuts, Eddie Noel is trying to show he is doing something by nibbling away at the edges

1 comment:

James said...

It is useful to know the Minister is only counting morning peak time.

But then so do most public transport systems. The rule in the UK is that cheap day travel starts at 9am or 9.30am, but there are almost no corresponding limitations on travel during the afternoon. The only ones I can think of were the specific anti-student ones which prevented use of student railcards between 2pm and 7pm on a Friday when travelling from King's Cross (line capacity was such that BR, as it then was, could expect to fill services with passengers paying full fare)