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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Analysis of the Impacts of British Transport Reforms on Transit Integration in the Metropolitan Areas

  • Author(s): Rivasplata, Charles Richard
  • et al.

By the 1990s, many experts concluded that transit privatization in Britain had produced positive impacts on service provision in London, but that deregulation outside of the capital had resulted in a number of negative impacts to passengers, most notably, rising fares, lower service frequencies in some areas, and declining levels of service integration. In an attempt to improve mobility at the local level, the incoming Labour Government effectively devolved transport planning powers to local authorities, requiring that they submit five-year Local Transport Plans in order to receive funding. Empowering legislation specifically identified service integration as a means through which to improve transit and provide a viable alternative to the auto. More recently, however, experts have surmised that local strategies in the Metropolitan Areas (Mets) have yielded limited gains in the area of service integration, in contrast to the experience of London.

While some politicians believe that re-regulation of the transit industry in the Mets would automatically resolve integration issues, interview results suggested that there are additional factors that keep transit providers from effectively collaborating with one another. For example, existing competition law prevents transit operators from freely communicating with others, virtually eliminating the prospect of collaborative responses to common concerns. Other factors influencing the level of integration include the ease with which local authorities voluntarily band together to provide service links, and the level of trust that transit operators have in local authorities. In addition, the interviews revealed that the integration of transit is more easily achieved where operators sense that authorities want to engage in horizontal integration and do not have a hidden agenda.

Beyond providing a better understanding of transit integration and possible reasons for past failures in the coordination of services, this study suggests ways of encouraging the sort of collaborative planning that can effectively bring together operators to work on improving service links in common areas. Attention to these issues is essential, not only to avoid disruptive, interoperator conflicts, but also to provide the conditions necessary to collectively offer a seamless, integrated transit service that provides significant benefits to passengers and society at large.

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