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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 January 2010

South Yorkshire says: 'We want our buses back'

No more fare rises, no more cutbacks!

For an integrated, affordable public transport system

We Want Our Buses Back campaign in South Yorkshire, photo Yorkshire SP

We Want Our Buses Back campaign in South Yorkshire, photo Yorkshire SP   (Click to enlarge)

South Yorkshire public transport users have had a double whammy this new year, with the usual annual rail fare rises coupled with the latest extortionate fare rises by First Group buses - averaging an 8% increase. Bus fares in the area have doubled since 2005, leading to great anger amongst Sheffield residents.

Calvin Payne, convenor, We Want Our Buses Back campaign

The Socialist Party run campaign We Want Our Buses Back has been organising the response to this increase by taking the latest instalment of our 20,000 strong petition to Sheffield council, who have pledged their commitment to reregulation under pressure from ourselves and others.

On Saturday 9 January we are organising a protest against the fare increases and calling for reregulation and public ownership of the bus service. South Yorkshire had an excellent, cheap bus service until deregulation in 1986.

Passengers don't accept the argument that public services are better when run for profit as they have had experience of both systems. Sheffield's integrated transport system, which was the envy of the country and beyond, has become a free-for-all for the private profiteers, with buses every couple of minutes on profitable routes while services are withdrawn in less profitable areas.

The council has had a 'Bus Agreement' with First for the last two years, which seems to consist of the company cutting routes and increasing fares and the council agreeing to let them! This agreement ends in the Spring and we have learnt that First plan to make massive service cuts - axing around 20% of routes - pulling out of areas where they make less than 25% profit.

This means a huge cut in driver levels, about 200 are not being replaced, as well as terrible damage to the service. The company has already frozen recruitment over recent months and has recently faced a strike by drivers fighting against a pay freeze imposed by bosses. This latest plan is certain to re-ignite anger amongst drivers.

We Want Our Buses Back unites support for the drivers' struggle with the fight against fare rises and service cuts.

Some people think that the expensive fares are somehow paying for high wages and are surprised when they find out that drivers start on little over 7 an hour working for a company that made 132 million profit last year, as well as paying a record shareholder dividend - up 10% in 12 months.

As with gas, electricity and the railways, privatisation has led to a service where a small number of major shareholders, company directors and other bosses are getting rich at the expense of staff and the public.

We link the struggle against a hugely unpopular company with the need to defend workers' rights against the bosses in general. We argue the case for public ownership and socialism as the only way of having an affordable, safe, reliable and genuine public service.


Demonstrate

We Want Our Buses Back

march and rally

Saturday 9 January, assemble

12.30pm, Sheffield Town Hall.

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In The Socialist 6 January 2010:

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