Bus services have been plunged into damaging decline because of spending cuts, and Theresa May and Chris Grayling have been accused of refusing to recognise that there’s a problem.
The Daily Mirror’s Save Our Buses campaign stands up for local bus routes and defends them from crippling funding cuts leaving commuters annoyed and frustrated, and since 2010 passengers numbers have fallen by 10 per cent while bus services have been reduced and fares have risen by 32 per cent, well above the rate of inflation.
And despite buses being the most prevalent form of public transport, the report depicts a panorama of steady deterioration amid “uncoordinated, fragmented government policy and squeezed funding for local authorities,” with approximately three out of five journeys by public transport that are on buses, but passengers are getting a bad deal, as there are long-term funding projects for rail and roads, but not buses, but the House of Common’s Transport Committee is asking for a national strategy for buses to give passengers a better deal.
The strategy should make bus services more passenger-focused and provide value for money, and help bring more people, particularly young people, onboard.
The report says local authorities should be able to create new publicly-owned bus companies and encourage people to switch from cars to buses.
The Tories have neglected buses, along with the people and communities who rely on them, and the government has cut funding and denied local authorities powers over services, putting the profit of private bus companies before passengers, and communities have been damaged by cutting people off from work and recreation and worsening congestion and air pollution.
It’s ridiculous that local authorities are prevented from setting up new municipal bus companies.
Reading, Nottingham and Edinburgh all have award-winning publicly owned bus companies, and other municipalities should be able to follow their example. Right now, shareholders extract millions every year from our bus network, and public ownership would mean more money to reinvest in better buses, and that’s the standard in other European countries like Germany and Austria.
More than 3,000 bus routes in England have been reduced, altered or eliminated since 2010/11, and the numbers using bus services are declining, which has direct consequences on people’s lives, affecting journeys to work, education and social events.
It narrows our transport choices and drives us towards less environmentally-friendly choices, and yet, there was no physical indication that the Government was prepared to take action to prevent this.
Passengers want manageable and reliable information on ticketing and fares and dependable services that turn up on time and get them where they want to go, and local authorities and bus drivers want to work together, whether to understand local traffic to better use bus priority measures, enforce moving traffic infractions or plan for new housing developments.
The Government has strategies on rail investment and road development, so it’s now time to bring forward a strategy for bus services outside London.
The strategy should make bus services more passenger-focused and provide value for money, and help to bring more people, particularly young people, onboard. This will also bring benefits for air quality, cutting carbon emissions and diminish congestion.
In February it was announced that the Local Government Association warned that approximately half of the bus routes in England are in threat of being discarded due to a lack of funding, and Town Hall chiefs fear the 12,700 services which councils finance are in jeopardy because the money may have to be redirected to fill a £652 million funding shortfall to pay for the free bus scheme.
Free bus passes for off-peak travel are a legal entitlement for people aged over 65, or those with a disability, but budget constraints mean councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.
But Jeremy Corbyn promised to reverse the Tory cuts to bus routes with new funding of £1.3 billion a year, which would restore many lost services.
The bus ‘revival’ will be financed by revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty, which was designated for new road building and was welcomed by campaigners and union leaders.
Delivering high-quality bus services is a shared obligation and a national strategy could provide a sound foundation for government, workers and local authorities to act together to make bus travel even more attractive to commuters, reduce congestion and better the environment.