Labour Vows to End Bus Service ‘Postcode Lottery’ After Manchester’s Lead

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The Labour Party has revealed a bold strategy to address the enduring issue of unequal bus services across England, following the successful model initiated in Greater Manchester. This move, aimed at terminating the ‘postcode lottery’ of bus provision, involves expediting the franchising process and granting greater control to local authorities.

Inspired by the Bee Network initiative, which witnessed the introduction of publicly-controlled buses in Bolton, Wigan, and parts of Bury and Salford last year, Labour aims to extend this approach throughout Greater Manchester by 2025. The party asserts that since the deregulation of bus services outside London in 1985, there has been a marked decline in service quality and availability.

The Shadow Transport Secretary outlined Labour’s vision, emphasizing the importance of reliable, affordable, and frequent bus services in fostering opportunities and combating isolation for millions. Under Labour’s proposed plan, local transport authorities would regain authority over routes, fares, frequencies, timetables, and overall standards, effectively placing power back in the hands of passengers.

A study conducted by the University of Leeds on behalf of Friends of the Earth revealed alarming statistics regarding the deterioration of bus services outside London. In 80 local authority areas, provision has plummeted by over 60%. Wigan stands out as one of the hardest-hit areas, experiencing a 41% decrease in service frequency over a 13-year period.

Labour’s plan not only aims to streamline the franchising process but also advocates for greater flexibility in funding, the safeguarding of vital routes, and support for public ownership. The party affirms that these measures will eliminate the current disparities in bus services and stimulate a nationwide revival of the sector, without necessitating additional central government spending.

The CEO of the Confederation of Passenger Transport expressed support for Labour’s initiative, highlighting the industry’s commitment to collaborating with local leaders to improve service provision. He stressed passengers’ desire for more reliable, extensive, and swift bus services, regardless of the regulatory model adopted.

However, the Transport Minister criticised Labour’s proposal, warning of potential council tax hikes and arguing that the policy would be economically unviable. He cited Labour’s West Yorkshire Mayor’s bus policy, expected to cost at least £100 million, as evidence of the financial burden it could impose.

In contrast, the government has opted to invest in existing transport infrastructure, such as extending the £2 bus fare cap and allocating £1 billion to bus services across the Midlands and the North. The minister attributed these initiatives to the prudent decision to cancel HS2 phase 2, allowing funds to be redirected towards vital transportation projects.

Labour’s plan has garnered support from various quarters, including the trade body for the UK bus and coach sector and the Institute for Public Policy Research. An IPPR senior research fellow hailed franchising as a catalyst for improved bus services, advocating for further devolution of control to mayors and local authorities.

As Labour prepares to unveil its mayoral launch event in the West Midlands, featuring Manchester as a blueprint for success, the party remains steadfast in its commitment to overhauling England’s bus services. With endorsements from industry experts and a clear roadmap for implementation, Labour’s plan signals a potential turning point in the quest for equitable and efficient public transportation nationwide.

Lauren Redford
Lauren Redford
Journalist Lauren Redford is a seasoned business journalist who focuses on regional areas throughout the United Kingdom. With her expertise and dedication, Lauren brings insightful coverage of local communities and their economic landscapes. With a meticulous approach and a passion for storytelling, she uncovers stories that resonate with readers and offers a deeper understanding of the business world. Lauren's commitment to delivering accurate and engaging news makes her a valuable member of the News Write Ups team.

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