Labour’s Creagh commits to London style bus powers – but no funding!
Scotland’s recent vote for independence has encouraged further debate about the devolution of power elsewhere in the UK, with the bus industry no exception. London style bus powers for local regions were called for by Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Mary Creagh. In a speech during this year’s Labour Conference in Manchester, she said, ‘I want to turn to the big change we need in our public transport. Buses are the lifelines of our cities, towns and villages. Two thirds of all journeys on public transport are on buses, yet they have become a Cinderella service. Bus services cut. Fares up by an inflation-busting 25% since 2010. Passenger numbers down outside London. People unable to get to work. The young, the poor, the disabled and the elderly – cut off from normal life. That must change. So Labour will support any city that wants London-style buses and smart, integrated tickets to have them. I want to pay tribute to the combined authorities in the North East and West Yorkshire, who have spent the past four years trying to achieve better buses through a Quality Contract. I wish them luck. And in government they will have my full support.’
The commitment has been supported by PTEG. Chair of PTEG, Cllr James Lewis, said, ‘For too long now on buses it has been one system for London, and another for the rest of the country. In London services are planned and integrated with simple, Oyster-style ticketing. Outside London, Whitehall has been content for communities to have no real say or influence over their local bus services and no prospect of passengers getting the smart, simple Oyster-style ticketing that London takes for granted.’
‘The current legal process for introducing London-style franchising of bus services is unnecessarily complex and convoluted. Especially, when, as we have seen in the North East, multi-nationals like Stagecoach have threatened to take any opportunity they can to frustrate, block and undermine any local transport authority that dares challenge the monopoly super profits that they currently extract from deregulated bus services.’
When we asked if the Labour Party has any estimates concerning how much this proposed devolution of power will cost and how it would be financed, B&CB was given the following statement: ‘It’s important to separate out funding and control. The measures needed to give cities the powers that London have are mainly legal and political. Our announcement is about control rather than funding – we want to give cities/combined authorities, etc, the power to decide how to run their buses. This is part of Labour’s wider devolution agenda about handing down power, not a spending commitment.’