Labour pledges to ‘take back control’ of bus services and accelerate franchising

Labour has pledged to end the “postcode lottery” of bus services by speeding up the franchising process.

Since de-regulation in 1985, the party said services outside of London have “collapsed”.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the plan would kickstart a revival of bus services across England.

In addition to removing barriers to franchising, greater flexibility over funding, safeguarding of vital routes, and support for public ownership are proposed.

Ms Haigh 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.

Fabian Society conference
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said Labour’s plan would kickstart a revival of bus services across England (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

Labour said the plan won’t require additional central government spending, but will ensure better value for money for the taxpayer.

Transport minister Guy Opperman MP claimed the plan would force huge council tax hikes.

He said: “Labour’s bus nationalisation policy won’t work but will force huge council tax hikes. Just look at Labour’s West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, her policy on buses is expected to cost at least a hundred million pounds, with no clue how to pay for it.

“Across the country Labour has no plan. That means, as always, they will put up your taxes and pick the pockets of hardworking people.

“Because Rishi Sunak and the Government took the long-term decision to cancel HS2 phase 2, we have been able to extend the £2 bus fare cap and invest £1 billion in bus services across the Midlands and the North, delivering on our plan to invest in the transport links people rely on.”

At a mayoral launch event in the West Midlands, Ms Haigh is expected to announce that a Labour government would pass new legislation to support local transport authorities in its first term.

Bus stock
Manchester and London are pointed to as the blueprints for successful franchising of bus services (David Jones/PA)

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) senior research fellow Maya Singer Hobbs said franchising should unlock better bus services.

Ms Hobbs said: “Buses play a far more important role in people’s lives than many commentators acknowledge, so we welcome signs that Labour recognises this.

“We are pleased to see plans for further devolution of bus franchising and ownership to mayors and local authorities, who are best placed to deliver services for their regions – something IPPR has long argued for.

“Funding reform and acceleration of the franchising process should unlock better services across the country.”

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