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From The Socialist newspaper, 23 March 2006

Transport campaigns

Sheffield bus protest blocks the road

TRAFFIC WAS brought to a halt in Darnall, Sheffield on 15 March as elderly and disabled residents, supported by We Want Our Buses Back campaigners blocked the main road.

Calvin Payne

90 year old Mrs. Mona Lee explains why: "We need a bus service through Pearce, Colister, Halsall estate. Most residents are elderly or disabled. We'll be getting free bus travel from April. But we've got no regular bus service through our estate. We've got no shop, no post-office, no pub ... and no bus service for two years!

"Most of us can't walk to the main road. So we have been made virtual prisoners in our own homes. They've (First Buses) taken away all our freedoms.

"The No. 6 bus runs hourly till 11pm every day including Sundays on Prince of Wales Road. It would only need to divert 6/10 mile and five minutes to go through our estate.

"Last year, Brandon Jones (South Yorkshire First commercial manager) told us, at a meeting in my house, that the No. 6 bus could be diverted from January. Nothing has happened! On 1 February, I presented nearly 300 signatures on a petition to Sheffield City Council. Still nothing has happened!!

"That's why we're protesting. We're sick of being fobbed off and broken promises. We want our bus service back!"

This direct action had a big impact getting widespread press, radio and TV coverage. First boss Jones did not reply to our letter, did not come to meet the Darnall residents, did not answer his mobile. Instead he put out a statement saying that it would be "uneconomic" to re-instate the service.

This is on the same day that Sheffield Labour council admitted that it could do nothing about declining bus passenger numbers and increasing traffic pollution in the city. No they can't if they don't make a stand against private operators like 'Profit' First who raise fares and cut services with no regulation.

And that would mean taking on their own government to win the powers and finance to take bus services back into public control and ownership.

Reclaim Bristol's buses!

THE 'RECLAIM the buses' campaign was established in Bristol after a massive fare increase of over 20% last year imposed by FirstBus, which was just the latest in a series of increases. People had had enough.

Wayne Coombes and Robin Clapp, Bristol Socialist Party

For years Bristolians have suffered from service cutbacks and late buses. First have even threatened to cut a school bus service on the grounds of the costs incurred through vandalism.

Most big cities suffer from this problem but they still manage to provide a service to our school kids. They are currently using school prefects to police their classmates! What better reason to bring back conductors on the buses if security is an issue?

However, First will not do anything which eats into their massive profits, especially where they can get money from the council tax payer. The few improvements which have been made, such as better disabled access at bus stops and a "showcase" bus route, were initiated by the council, not the company.

Prior to the deregulation of the bus industry, Bristol had a municipally owned bus service. It was not perfect but it shone like a beacon, compared to today's travesty of a service.

Crucially, municipal ownership allowed democratic pressure to be exerted on the council by both bus users and drivers' unions when changes and improvements needed to be made.

Even the local press ran a debate on the merits of a free bus service. A far cry from today when the council just claim they have no powers to bring First into line!

If this is the case, why aren't Labour councillors calling on their own party to bring the service back under democratic public control? This must be the answer for big cities like Bristol and elsewhere as it is for successful public transport in other cities in Europe.

We also demand:

Public meeting: "Reclaim the buses"

23 March, 7.30pm, City Council House, College Green, Bristol.

Speakers include Calvin Payne from the Sheffield campaign.

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

Bristol launch meeting

Thursday 30 March at 7.45pm.

Venue: Cornubia Pub, Temple Street.

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In The Socialist 23 March 2006:

Hands off our pensions!

How to win the battle to defend pensions

Time for a new workers' party

Successful Campaign for a New Workers' Party launch conference

Socialist Party members protest against Labour education minister Ruth Kelly

France: Millions protest against Villepin government

Iraq: A three-year nightmare

Can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved?

How to plan a revolution

Fight to save the NHS

Lewisham: Socialist Party takes up the fight against ALMOs

Fight privatisation in universities and colleges

Sheffield bus protest blocks the road

NUJ Conference: Defending pay and conditions


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