Chairman Nik Antona said:Whether or not it is a desirable policy is debatable. But is it really CAMRA’s role to be campaigning for generalised subsidies to public transport? It comes across as stepping outside its campaigning objectives. Yes, it may bring some benefit to pubs, although probably less than might be imagined, but that’s only a tangential effect. It would be just as logical to campaign for a cap on taxi fares, or funding research into self-driving cars.
“Cheaper bus fares are great news for the beer and pub trade, making it affordable for people to go out to visit their locals.
“Extending the £2 bus fare scheme for England is something that we had called on Transport ministers to do so that pubs, social clubs, breweries and cider producers grappling with the cost-of-business crisis can benefit from people being able to get to the pub in an affordable and environmentally friendly way.”
It probably has a lot to do with the long-standing overlap between CAMRA members and public transport enthusiasts. At one point CAMRA did set up a national public transport campaign group, although mention of it seems to have disappeared from their public website. Many taxpayers on modest incomes may well question whether it is a good use of public funds to subsidise people to go to the pub.
No doubt someone will pipe up that it will act as a deterrent to drink-driving, but in reality the idea that a higher bus fare will tempt someone to offend isn’t really credible. This is akin to the suggestion that is sometimes heard of linking drink-driving with high soft drink prices.
Public transport subsidies are not a no-brainer – it is a matter of legitimate political debate as to whether they provide a worthwhile return to the taxpayer. Given this, even if they do tempt a few more customers to visit pubs, to actively support them is exceeding CAMRA’s remit. It should go no further than observing that they may be helpful to some pubgoers.