Operators ‘raking in billions’, says Labour

A statement issued by Labour says some new analysis it has made reveals bus fares are set to ‘soar’ over the next few years. It states this happens at the same time private companies operating bus routes are ‘raking in billions of pounds’.

The new research suggests that in 2022 average fares are set to be 53% higher in 2022 than in 2010 in real terms. Other figures it claims include bus passenger numbers are on course to be over 10% lower than they were when the Tories came to power. Elderly and disabled passenger numbers are set to fall by nearly 20%.

This, it says, comes at a time of growing profits for private bus companies. English bus operators have made a total of £3.3bn in profit since 2009/10. Labour analysis also revealed that bus routes across the country are also projected to fall by over 5,000 by 2022. Labour plans to create the freedom for local authorities to form their own bus companies by removing the Conservative Government’s ban and extending the powers to re-regulate local bus services to all areas that want them. Labour also committed to protecting free bus passes for pensioners, improving disabled access to services and introducing a new free bus pass for under 25s.

RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “With services in decline and vulnerable and isolated communities taking the brunt of the cuts it is now clear that decades of bus privatisation have failed and we need a new national strategy for our buses underpinned by public ownership. This would not only radically improve services but by ending profiteering would result in a total gain of half a billion pounds each year.”

In response to Labour’s claims, CPT said: “Private bus operators have invested many millions of pounds on new vehicles and the UK has the youngest ever bus fleet. Buses on the road are the cleanest and most environmentally friendly we have ever seen, and the UK has one of the most accessible bus networks in the world.

“Operators are investing in new technology including on-board wifi and improved journey information. New payment options are being developed and major operators now offer contactless/mobile ticketing options. These investments far outweigh dividends paid to shareholders.

“In the vast majority of cases, cuts to bus services have occurred where local authorities have withdrawn financial support to non-commercial routes. Returning to a regulated market would put further intolerable strain on those budgets. Bus mileage in London is also showing a reduction, due in large part to increasing congestion which makes bus travel less attractive.

“So far as bus patronage is concerned, recently published research by KPMG shows that increasing road congestion, growth in on-line shopping, and changing work patterns all have a detrimental effect on bus speeds and reliability. These issues are largely beyond the control of bus operators.

“Bus travel remains remarkably good value for money compared to other modes and fares have never been highlighted as a concern by passengers who in the most recent Transport Focus satisfaction survey gave their local bus services a strong endorsement.”

• KPMG report “Trends in English bus patronage”: https://goo.gl/GGAoPk

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