REGARDING the praise for 'kneeling buses,' as they are called (Letters, August 21), they are indeed a boon to the elderly, but, as a pensioner with many years service 'on the buses,' I must point out abnormalities in the public service system that probably never occurred to any of us.

There are now two sorts of bus companies. The one we are mostly familiar with is usually run by an undertaking like a local council, with a Monday to Friday timetable and a restricted one on Sundays. They replace their stock with new vehicles and follow practices established over many years, such as fare increases being applied pro-rate according to the distance travelled.

Then, there are the independent companies. I've no doubt there are many places where they have been a godsend, but, as well as being a blessing, deregulation has left the door open to all sorts.

Any company can charge what they like and run when they like as long as they give formal notice. That all sounds quite normal until you realise that some of these companies only run the hours when most passengers are available, thus stealing the cream and they only buy second-hand vehicles.

Hardly a level playing field is it?

You can find fare increases 'across the board' -- on every fare whatever the distance travelled. Those who make the shorter journeys, usually pensioners, have a massive percentage increase in what they pay. This is often dismissed as 'only coppers' but, say, 3p on every trip by every passenger would amount to quite a windfall.

When that is put with the unfair practice of running their timetables five minutes before the more reputable companies, it's a recipe for running those companies off the road, which has already happened to quite a few.

Pensioners probably contribute more income to these companies than any other group and I think we should serve the companies that serve us best.

I know we are supposed to have people on fat salaries who are supposed to protect us from such behaviour -- waste of time and money, aren't they?

A SPENCER (Mr), Water Street, Accrington.