Transport should be considered a fundamental right and the Government should regulate accordingly.
However, a report on bus services in the UK, authored by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, found them to be costly, fragmented and inadequate. It states that as a result, “many people have lost jobs and benefits, faced barriers to healthcare, been forced to give up on education, sacrificed food and utilities, and been cut off from friends and family”.
Buses are a public service which should be run for the public good. Deregulation has not worked for the vast majority of bus users and people in this country.
I share concerns about the Government’s national bus strategy. It is, in my opinion, a missed opportunity and has not delivered a radical transition to a zero-emission fleet. We are still waiting for almost all of the 4,000 zero emission buses promised last year. Whilst we wait, cuts to bus services and rising ticket costs push more people into using more polluting forms of transport.
The more integrated set-up between local authorities and operators announced in the strategy is welcome, but mayors and local transport authorities wanting to bring in franchising still face countless hurdles and ideological barriers. I am concerned that the Government is leaving it to others to chart the complicated course of winning support for greater public control of our bus networks.
It would be far better for councils to be supported in their efforts to start up and run municipal bus services that meet the needs of their communities. This could be a genuinely ambitious alternative, including overhauling access to public buses in rural areas with an “every village, every hour” approach to support those communities which need better access to healthcare, education and jobs.
I can assure you that I will continue to support calls to reverse the millions of miles of bus routes lost across the country and advocate for bus services that are greener and operate in the interest of their passengers not profits.