The Null Device

Bus privatisation disasters

Think your privatised public transport service is shoddy? It could always be worse, like, say, the buses in Delhi, which are privately owned, with strong free-market incentives. Unfortunately, they're incentives to drive faster, overtaking the bus in front and grabbing potential passengers, whilst skimping on any avoidable maintenance, rather than providing a useful service:
While a city-run service would prioritize getting its citizens from A to B, a private driver is less focused on customer service than on overtaking the next bus down the road. After all, the faster he drives, the more competitors he passes, the more passengers he picks up, and the more money he makes.
Which is why the last thing a Blueline driver ever wants to do is come to a stop. Every move he makes is done with the intent of keeping the bus in motion: slowing just enough so debarking passengers can jump off, then picking up speed as the new passengers run alongside the bus, swinging themselves up and in as the conductor screams at them to hurry. And before the last passenger is fully aboard (sometimes pulled in by his fellow passengers), the driver is already shifting gears, spewing mocking black smoke at hapless would-be passengers still running after the bus, and bulldozing the bus back into traffic.
But with an estimated 2,200 Blueline buses careening across Delhi on any given day, it’s no wonder the newspaper reports are almost identical every day. After an accident, the driver tries to flee, an angry mob beats him, the police impound the bus, the driver is thrown in jail, the owner of the bus is not mentioned. Sometimes the driver escapes, in which case the mob finds its release in setting fire to the bus.
The Delhi government wants to replace the privatised system with a modern, city-run one, though is expected to run into powerful opposition from the owners of the private buses.

There are 1 comments on "Bus privatisation disasters":

Posted by: Greg Thu Sep 10 04:19:34 2009

The story is interesting, but just as interesting is the fact that people still need to point out these problems to the dreamers who still think that competition through private enterprise solves all problems. It does in domains, in which several providers can compete (building better phones and all those kinds of things). But public transport, utilities, health care, defence etc are by their nature monopolies, to be owned by the people they are meant to serve, acting via their government and civil service. That's the only chance for the utility to do its job. Giving it to a private company means that instead of aiming to do its job, the utility must aim to make a profit for its owner. That works in domains in which competition can occur, but in domains that are natural monopolies, it's straight to hell.

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