John Hibbs, The Dangers of Bus Re-regulation, Institute of Economic Affairs, London (2005), 117 pp., £10.00.
This monograph is essentially in two parts. The first, and longer, one is authored by John Hibbs and considers the question posed in the title of the book. The second part contains contributions from four different authors on related aspects of transport markets.
Part 1 contains four chapters which tell the story of bus regulation, nationalisation and deregulation before reaching, in the final chapter, a discussion of the current-day issues. The first two chapters look at the initial intervention in the industry (from the early days to the instigation of the 1930 Road Traffic Act), through post-Second World War nationalisation and the subsequent return to the status quo of the 1930 Act after the return of the Conservative government in 1951 and conclude with the advent of deregulation and privatisation in the 1980s. Whilst necessarily a rapid tour of history, these chapters are succinctly written and take account of both published and unpublished academic research on the subject. More than other short histories, these chapters identify not only what led to the legislation but also its outcome. The next two chapters bring us to present-day bus operation with a discussion of the deregulation and privatisation introduced by the 1985 Act (chapter 3) and the issues raised by the potential created by the Transport Act 2000 for quality partnerships and quality contracts (chapter 4). Whilst the discussion around deregulation and privatisation is clearly factual, that which relates to quality partnerships and contracts is more speculative, since their implementation in a legal sense has yet to happen. The discussion is enhanced by the raising of issues related more to the political economy of regulation (for example, suggesting that culturally the United Kingdom settled for an arbitration type of regulation as a result of our Anglo- Saxon heritage, in contrast to the franchise systems of Europe). …