Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1125/32188
The Socialist 17 March 2021 |
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Government's bus plans fall short of making up for the cuts
photo Ad Meskens/CC (Click to enlarge)
The government's new plans for much of England's bus network, including a pledge to invest £3 billion doesn't go anywhere near compensating for the cuts that have taken place.
The Campaign for Better Transport has said that 3,000 bus services have been axed over the past decade due to a 40% cut in local authority bus funding. The reduction of services has particularly affected England's smaller towns and rural areas without rail links.
As part of his strategy to 'level up' England and reduce regional inequality, the prime minister will reform the privatised bus market that has existed since 1986. "Enhanced partnerships" will be formed between bus operators and local councils to promote closer collaboration. But to really take bus services to the level needed, all services should be renationalised under democratic workers' control and management.
Proposals to reduce ticketing prices, to allow for contactless payments and move towards greener buses, are set out. But as Unite the Union, which represents many bus drivers, says, it is highly disappointing that the strategy fails to introduce minimum standards for bus drivers' pay and conditions, and ignores the growing crisis of fatigue which results in accidents and leads to long-term health problems for drivers.
Unite national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton said: "The National Bus Strategy is an admission that the 1980s deregulation of the bus service has been a complete failure.
"Fares have increased, services have reduced, private operators cherry-pick the most profitable routes and social exclusion has mushroomed as connectivity has been cut.
"The National Bus Strategy attempts to address these issues but specifically excludes the best solution which would be to allow local authorities to work together to operate their own services."