If short-sighted bus cuts continue we will all find our society is poorer for it, writes Sophie Allain of the Campaign for Better Transport.
By Sophie Allain of the Campaign for Better Transport
Trains, planes and automobiles tend to be the transport options of choice for politicians on the move, but when they are making key decisions about the future of the humble public bus it is vital they get to grips with the day-in day-out experience of the millions of people who rely on bus services.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle spent yesterday listening to young public transport users at the Labour Young People’s Transport Summit, and she has announced to them a proposal for free travel passes for sixth formers. This is step in the right direction, and follows our call for something similar in the Budget – a call ignored by George Osborne who helped motorists by cutting fuel duty but did nothing for those reliant on public transport.
But if we want a reliable, affordable joined up public transport system the voices of bus users have to be amplified and the issue of inadequate bus services needs to rise up the political agenda.
What do bus users want and need? Running the Save Our Buses campaign means we get contacted from all sorts of people anxious and shocked that their everyday transport is disappearing, sometimes literally overnight. We have heard from jobseekers unable to travel to work. We have heard from people whose disabilities mean they can’t drive, so when the bus is gone so is their self-sufficiency.
We have heard from young people sick and tired of paying adult bus fares, because the current postcode lottery of youth bus concessions means that as Council budgets are squeezed fewer and fewer children receive any discount at all when they get on the bus. Pensioners might benefit from the free bus pass, but that is not a lot of use when there is no bus to get on. In some areas the village bus stop is now a lonely souvenir of a bygone bus network.
When bus users are given a platform to spell out just how vital buses are the results can be impressive. Single mum Jo Green has been celebrating this week after Cambridgeshire County Council announced a review of their decision to cut 100% of bus subsidy in the county. This could have meant 20 per cent of the local bus network axed, but Jo took the council to the High Court, and the council appear to have caved in.
Perhaps with the weight of the law bearing down, decision makers in councils and Parliament will be less likely to close their ears to the bus-using public. But if short-sighted bus cuts continue we will all find our society is poorer for it.
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