Socialist Party member Sheila Caffrey speaking at the protest
Socialist Party member Sheila Caffrey speaking at the protest

Fred Ralston, Bristol North Socialist Party

Socialist Party members joined 150 people on a ‘march for fairer buses’ in Bristol on 9 September.

Bristol buses are privately run by First and Stagecoach. The disastrously bad service they deliver is a major gripe for anyone in the city who uses them.

The march finished at the West of England Combined Authorities headquarters. This is the office of the ‘metro mayor’ covering Bristol and the surrounding local authorities – South Gloucestershire as well as Bath and North East Somerset.

The march was organised and led by XR Youth Bristol, a local Extinction Rebellion group. XR Youth Bristol are campaigning for free, fair and franchised buses that they say is a step towards publicly owned buses. It is calling on the council to implement this model.

A franchised model is where the authority specifies the bus services to be provided, determining the routes, timetables and fares. But services are still operated by a private company making profit. This model is being put into place by Labour’s Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

Publicly owned, direct control

The Socialist Party was campaigning for buses to be publicly owned, and brought directly back into the control of local authorities. Socialist Party member Sheila Caffrey – a member of the National Education Union (NEU) executive – made the case for this in one of a number of rousing speeches at the start of the march.

Members of the public on the sides initially did not understanding why we were marching. However, once the call for free and fairly priced buses was put across to onlookers, they became supportive.

The Socialist Party received a wholly positive to our leaflet – ‘Public transport not private profit’. We met another person on the march who wants to join the Socialist Party.