We have a real opportunity to get the sort of improvement to our bus services that would make a huge difference to all of us. This is because the Bus Services Bill is currently going through parliament.
What we need are properly regulated buses so that we get lower fares and more and better services.
This would help passengers and encourage more people to use buses, resulting in reduced congestion, dangerous air pollution and social isolation.
The Bus Services Bill would allow councils to bring in a franchise system, where private bus companies bid to run services regulated and set by the councils.
In a system like this, which is what happens in London, councils have to give the public a real say in decisions about services and the bus companies cannot simply chop and change routes, pick where they go, when, and how much the fares are.
However, we need your help as the government wants to restrict the power to bring in a franchising system to the councils which agree a Devolution Deal and create an Elected Mayor. We want our MPs and councillors to work to prevent this restriction so that our council, as part of the North East Combined Authority, could bring this in and would not have to be referred back to government for permission.
We also want the removal of Clause 21 from the bill because it would prevent any more local authorities setting up, owning and running their own bus company. Twelve local authorities already do this successfully across the UK.
The North East Combined Authority’s transport committee has voted to oppose this clause and one of our local MPs, Alan Campbell, has stated his opposition to it. Mr Campbell was one of the 40 Labour, Green and Lib Dem MPs who attended a recent event to mark the 30th anniversary of bus deregulation.
The decision to deregulate the buses everywhere except London was made by the Thatcher government and has been a disaster for passengers paying higher fares, other road users facing worse congestion, and everyone breathing in more polluted air.
We would urge everyone to write to their MPs to ensure we move towards a properly regulated bus service, run in the public interest. This is the only way we will get the fully integrated public transport we deserve, and which will be significant in reducing climate change as well.
Our local public transport users group is meeting to discuss our campaign on buses, new Metro trains and other issues. You are invited to come along on November 17, from 5pm to 7pm, at Whitley Bay Library, with tea and coffee available. See www.twptug.org.uk
Secretary, North Tyneside Public Transport Users Group