Labour announces plans to devolve bus services

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Mary Creagh: "A Labour government will provide all necessary support to ensure that any city that wants London-style buses can have them"
Mary Creagh: “A Labour government will provide all necessary support to ensure that any city that wants London-style buses can have them”

A Labour government would give more control over deregulated bus service to local authorities, says Ed Miliband

A Labour government would pass an English Devolution Act, transferring control of over £30bn worth of funding to England’s cities and counties, Ed Miliband has announced.

As part of the measures, more powers to regulate bus services would be granted to city or county regions which want them.

Ed Miliband said that Labour would allow cities and county regions which come together in combined authorities to take greater control over deregulated bus services in their areas, allowing them to set routes and fares, integrate services with other public transport links and introduce smart ticketing schemes like London’s Oyster card.

He said: “For too long powers to regulate and integrate bus services have been enjoyed only by London.”

Reacting to the news, The CPT expressed disappointment and said: “At time when investment in new vehicles is strong and passenger satisfaction is at record levels we should be talking about working together to further improve services for passengers – not arguing about control.

“Delivering high-quality bus services is a shared responsibility. When operators and local authorities work together in partnership, real benefits for the passenger are achieved.

“But the final word has to come from passengers, the people who actually use the buses. A survey by Passenger Focus of 20,000 bus users from outside London gave an overall satisfaction score of 88%, a figure any business would aspire to achieve. The latest figure for London is 83%. This is a clear demonstration that passengers are more satisfied when their services and fares are not controlled by a public authority.”

Giles Fearnley, FirstGroup’s UK Bus Managing Director said: “Private sector bus operators have delivered results for passengers and local authorities – for instance, the five major operators have invested more than £1.4bn over the last five years in commercial bus services across the UK.

“Replicating London’s bus system elsewhere isn’t feasible since the capital has atypically low car ownership, a growing population and above all, a high level of public spending of more than £500m every year – or £75 per Londoner in 2012/13, compared to just £19 per person in England’s other metropolitan cities.

“The most effective way to deliver the best bus services for passengers is through operators and local authorities working together in partnership, and FirstGroup is doing just that with our partnerships in cities such as Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol delivering lower fares, increasing use of smart and mobile ticketing and meeting local authority aspirations to get more passengers on buses.”

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group CEO, said: “This uncosted and unnecessary plan would land people in England’s biggest city regions overnight with a tax bill running to hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as leading to higher bus fares.

“Britain’s bus operators provide extensive, integrated and high quality bus networks which are central to regional economies and local communities in England’s biggest city regions.

“It is time politicians stopped peddling the myth that London is best and has a monopoly on good bus services. The truth is that England’s city regions have significantly lower fares and higher customer satisfaction than London, as well as having access to frequent, integrated bus services and smart ticketing. This is despite many environmental factors – such as high population growth, low car ownership, congestion charging and significantly higher per capita public funding – which have all been advantageous to London.”

Councillor James Lewis, of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “Buses key to supporting growth, to cutting congestion and are relied upon by hard working, low income families who do not have access to a car.

“For far too long we have faced service cuts, fares hikes and patronage reduction as under deregulation bus companies are free to provide the services that make them large profits – not the network that would best serve the needs of our economies and communities. We need new powers to make it easier for us to introduce the regulated system that allows London to plan its bus services and to give passengers fully integrated, smart and simple ‘Oyster’ ticketing..”

Mary Creagh MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Buses are the forgotten backbones of our villages, towns and cities yet this Government has allowed bus fares to rise by an inflation-busting 25% since 2010.

“Labour wants to deliver cheaper, more frequent, more reliable and greener bus services with smart ticketing, clear timetables and real time information.

“A Labour government will provide all necessary support to ensure that any city that wants London-style buses can have them.”