Fight for free, green, publicly owned transport

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Adam Goulcher, Gloucestershire Socialist Party

Nearly one in five households do not have access to a car. For those in the bottom 20% of households by income, the figure is one in three.

The bus is literally a lifeline for many households, providing the only means of access to health services, education, work and shops. Research by the RMT transport union found that six million people do not live within one kilometre of an hourly bus service.

The pandemic led to a catastrophic reduction in bus fare income and the government was forced to bail out operators. With passenger levels still only at 70% of pre-pandemic figures, subsidies coming to an end in March, and further local authority cuts, this will inevitably mean cuts in services.

A third of bus services are under threat, according to the operators’ representative body. So much for the government’s ‘levelling up’ and ‘bus back better’. The £3 billion promised for buses in March 2021 has already been cut to £1.4 billion. Council bids for this funding currently stand at £9 billion.


Bus services outside London were privatised and deregulated by Thatcher in 1986. Following the ludicrous, dangerous and polluting spectacle of ‘bus wars’ – where private operators raced to capture an unregulated market, 70% of services were operated by the big five operators.

Consequently, local monopolies dominate, leading to high fares and poor service. Fares have doubled in real terms since 1987, and bus trips outside London have halved from four billion to two billion annually.

Profit-making operators are subsidised by councils to provide services on unprofitable routes. This accounts for about 40% of their income. Since the 2008 crash, council spending on these services has fallen by 45% in real terms, devastating the lives of millions losing access to vital services.

Every cut in services represents real hardship for the millions dependent on buses for everyday life. Nearly 40 years after deregulation we see a handful of monopolies sharing the loot from profitable urban services and scrounging subsidy for ‘supported’ services, replacing the previous system of cross-subsidy which provided superior coverage and frequency.

Yet another example of rotten privatisation transferring wealth from the poorest in society to the corporations and their shareholders. We demand a free, integrated, green publicly owned and operated transport system, run democratically. This would provide the backbone for an efficient needs-based socialist economy.

Transport costs pile on to cost of living squeeze

Sare O’Neil, South East London Socialist Party

The cost of living crisis reaches every aspect of working-class living – from fuel, to food, to wages, to rent, to the cost of travel.

Petrol and diesel prices have reached a record high, and Transport for London, under the leadership of Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, is set to raise fares by 5%.

When travel prices increase, and wages do not, workers’ pay is indirectly slashed. We go to work, and come back with less in our pockets than the week before. Unable to afford to live close to the workplace, many of us are forced into long, expensive commutes.

“I understand the pressures people are facing with the cost of living,” insists Rishi Sunak, the richest person in the House of Commons. How could such an individual empathise with the struggles of working people? With MPs’ basic wage increasing to £81,932 in the last few years (minus expenses and lobbying, of course), it has become a position far away removed from the people it is meant to serve.

That’s why Dave Nellist’s pledge to take only a workers’ wage if elected for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the Erdington by-election (see page 3) is so important. The salaries and lifestyles of MPs mean they can make cuts, and back profiteering fuel companies, without ever feeling the sting.

Every year we are told to hold out hope that the next will be better. But even when the economy grows, by 7.5% in 2021, the working class is still worse off – “neither median nor household living standards went up at all”, according to the Financial Times.

Workers fight back

Public transport workers are showing how to fight. With strikes winning pay rises on the buses, and RMT tube strikes underway.

Strike action to defend services and for pay rises is needed, but the cost of living crisis also shows the need for a new mass party of the working class, backed by the trade unions, that fights for renationalisation of the railways and public transport, the fuel companies, and the polluting oil companies.

Free and efficient public transport, and social housing near workplaces, is also vital. This way, workers could get to work without seeing a significant dent in our pay cheques.

Council must use powers to save Liverpool’s 86 night bus

Alex Smith, Liverpool Socialist Party

Stagecoach’s 86 night bus from Liverpool city centre to Speke via the Smithdown area – popular with students looking to get home safely and relatively cheaply – has been cut. A petition now has over 10,000 signatures demanding that the service be reinstated immediately, especially in the context of spiking incidents and sexual assaults against female students in Liverpool city centre.

Disgracefully, Labour politicians in the city and elsewhere refuse to act. Yet Liverpool City Council has ‘usable reserves’ of over £50 million which could be used to reinstate the night bus immediately, and stop wider council cuts and council tax rises for at least a year. The time bought could be used by Liverpool’s councillors to wage a campaign against central government, demanding that reserves spent defending the working class of Liverpool be replenished.

It is against this backdrop that Liverpool Socialist Students is pushing, through Liverpool Trade Union Council (LTUC), for the reinstatement of the night bus as a first step in a wider campaign for all bus services to be renationalised under democratic workers’ control and management.

The LTUC is currently writing to local politicians demanding that they meet an LTUC and Socialist Students delegation to discuss the reintroduction of the night bus.

Socialist Students is also approaching bus depot trade union branches in the city, with LTUC, to seek support for the campaign. UCU branches at Liverpool universities and colleges will also be approached, as will other trade union branches, community organisations, and left-wing councillors in the city (a number of whom have now been suspended or expelled from Labour).

Liverpool Socialist Students understand that there is an alternative to cuts. When LTUC drew up a costed no-cuts budget proposal last year – written by Trade Union and Socialist Coalition supporters – six Liverpool Labour councillors picked it up and wrote to the city’s then acting mayor, Wendy Simon, describing the LTUC proposal as a “workable strategy”.

So this ‘workable strategy’ should be adopted now. Liverpool’s councillors should fight the cuts instead of doing the Tories’ dirty work. Help to increase the safety of students and young people by reinstating the night bus. And fight other cuts as well. No more excuses.