Labour pledges to reverse Tory cuts to bus routes – and even expand services
Labour will unveil plans today to reverse Tory cuts to 3,000 bus routes which have “devastated” communities in England and Wales.
And new funding of £1.3bn a year will not only reinstate many bus services, but provide cash for new bus routes.
The bus ‘revival’ will be funded by revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty, which was earmarked for new road building, and was welcomed by campaigners and union leaders.
Speaking in Nottingham, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will announce the key transport strategy and will say:“Bus services have been devastated by nine years of austerity. Thousands of routes have been axed, fares have soared and passenger numbers are in freefall.
“Local services are a lifeline for many, particularly the elderly and those in rural areas. Cuts have had disastrous consequences for our towns and city centres and for air pollution and the environment.
“Bus networks are essential for towns and cities and for tackling rural poverty and isolation, which is why Labour is committed to creating thriving bus networks under public ownership.”
An analysis by the Campaign for Better Transport shows more than 3,000 bus routes have been cut back or withdrawn since 2010, amid a 45% reduction in local authority bus budgets.
Vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. are living in rural areas which have been totally cut off as a result of their bus services disappearing.
The Daily Mirror’s Save Our Buses campaign stands up for local bus routes and defends them from damaging funding cuts.
Since 2010 passenger numbers have slumped by 10% while bus services have been reduced and fares have increased by 32%, well above the rate of inflation.
Labour says it plans will also combat air pollution and climate change, address inequalities and support local economies.
They will also put communities in control of local services by regulating and bringing into public ownership local services.
The next Labour government will provide funds for free travel for under-25s to local authorities that introduce bus franchising or move to public ownership of their local bus services.
The move could benefit up to 13 million younger people and will support and incentivise local authorities to create municipally owned bus companies.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said:” “The Tories have neglected buses, along with the people and communities who rely on them.
“Slashing bus funding damages our communities by cutting people off from work and leisure and worsening congestion and air pollution.
“Labour is announcing an end to austerity for buses and the funding needed to transform local services to allow our towns and cities to thrive.”
Bobby Morton, national officer for passenger transport with the giant Unite union, said: “Bus services provide an essential lifeline for people living in towns and rural communities.
“Labour’s commitment to invest in bus services is to be strongly welcomed. As well as providing much needed employment it will help to tackle the twin evils of poverty and isolation that takes hold in communities when bus services are cut.
“Frequent and reliable bus services boost social mobility which helps to expand the local economy and creates local employment opportunities.”
Emily Yates, co-founder of the Association of British Commuters, said:” ”Public transport needs rebuilding from the ground up, and this means prioritising buses. Investment on this scale would lead to long-term social and economic benefits for the whole of the UK.”
And Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “As the number of post offices, pubs and village stores closing down continues to rise, communities across the countryside are becoming more and more reliant on local bus services.
“The fact that these have disappeared at rate just as fast as local shops and services over recent years has made rural life increasingly difficult for many people, particularly for those on low incomes.
“With proper funding in rural bus services, we have an opportunity to reconnect communities with the amenities that they depend on, reduce car dependency and carbon emissions, making our market towns, villages and countryside safer, cleaner and more attractive places to live, work and visit.”
Department for Transport figures show the number of local bus passenger journeys in England fell by 85 million or 1.9% to 4.36 billion in the year ending March 2018.
Free bus passes for off-peak travel are a legal entitlement for people aged over 65, or those with a disability. But cash-strapped councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.
Nearly half of all bus routes in England receive partial or complete subsidies from councils.
Source: Read Full Article