Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh MP, has today [Thursday 11 April 2024] set out the party’s plans for a better bus network across England, with a promise to allow every community across the country to take back control of local bus services.

Labour’s plan could create and save up to 1,300 vital bus routes and allow 250 million more passenger journeys per year compared to today’s failed system. It will also bring an end to the postcode lottery of bus services by providing safeguards over local networks across the country.

The plan will also see better buses delivered faster, with franchising done in as little as two years. Greater Manchester endured a six-year slog due to unnecessary barriers imposed by central government.

Since buses were deregulated in 1985, bus services in England’s regions outside London have collapsed, with:

  • 1.5 billion fewer annual bus journeys in 2019 than in 1985
  • Almost 300 million fewer miles driven by buses per year since 2010
  • Thousands of bus services cut since 2010

Labour’s plans will ensure better value for money for the taxpayer, deliver a better service for passengers and give local authorities a choice over the bus system that works best for them. It will require no additional central government spending.

Where bus franchising is in place, in London and Greater Manchester, buses have thrived. Greater Manchester has already improved reliability and significantly grown passenger numbers less than a year after bus franchising went live.

Speaking at a launch event in the West Midlands with Labour’s Mayoral candidate, Richard Parker, Louise Haigh is expected to say that, during its first term, a Labour Government will pass new legislation to support local transport authorities to take back control of their bus services and has set out a five-point plan to deliver better buses. Labour will:

  1. Empower local transport authorities and reform funding: by giving local leaders more control and flexibility over bus funding and allowing them to plan ahead to deliver their local transport priorities.
  2. Allow every community to take back control of their buses: by removing barriers that currently limit bus franchising powers only to metro mayors.
  3. Accelerate the bus franchising process: by supporting local leaders to deliver better buses, faster.
  4. Step in to safeguard local bus networks: by providing more accountability over bus operators and ensuring standards are raised wherever you live across the country.
  5. Support public ownership: by removing the Conservatives’ ideological ban on publicly owned bus companies and building on the success of award-winning public bus services still in operation.

Louse Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said:

“Reliable, affordable and regular buses are the difference between opportunity and isolation for millions of people across the country.

“Four decades of disastrous deregulation of Britain’s buses has robbed communities of a say over the vital services that they depend on, instead handing power to unaccountable private operators who have slashed services.

“Labour will give every community the power to take back control of their bus services, and will support local leaders to deliver better buses, faster.

“Labour’s plans will create and save vital routes and services, end today’s postcode lottery of bus services, and kickstart a revival of bus services across England.”

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