3 ways Boris Johnson can deliver better buses if he’s serious about levelling up

2 February 2022

Boris Johnson says he loves buses and he’s talked a lot about them over the years. In his recent ‘Bus Back Better’ strategy he promised to deliver “great bus services to everyone, everywhere”. 

And in the Levelling Up white paper published today, the government has promised to deliver better buses around the country.

By 2030, it says, local public transport around the country will be “significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing”.

That sounds great, but it won’t happen unless Boris Johnson does these 3 things.

1)     Give London-style bus regulation powers to all authorities across the country

Since Margaret Thatcher deregulated the buses everywhere outside London in 1986, it’s been a free for all. Mayoral authorities have the option of regulating their buses so that they can have public control over the routes, the fares, the timetable and the network as a whole to make sure it works for passengers.

So far, Mayor Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester has agreed to regulate the buses after a campaign by passengers.

But areas which don’t have a metro mayor can’t easily regulate their buses. Boris Johnson should give every local authority the power to regulate their bus network in the interests of passengers rather than profit

2)     Reverse the ban on new publicly owned bus companies

Even better than just public control is public control plus public ownership. 

At the moment there are a handful of municipally owned bus companies around the country that managed to survive Thatcher. Reading Buses is one of these. Because it doesn’t have to give dividends to shareholders, Reading Buses can invest an additional £3 million a year in making the services better so that more people can take the bus.

Lothian Buses in Edinburgh is another great example of a publicly owned bus company, with the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the industry.

BUT right now there is a government BAN on local authorities being allowed to set up their own new municipal bus company, to follow in the footsteps of Reading and Edinburgh.

This is outrageous and it needs to change.

3)     Boris Johnson needs to fund buses properly if he actually cares about them.

Local and central government support for buses has fallen by £800m a year over 10 years. More than a million people in Great Britain now live at least a mile from a bus stop with a regular service.

And while the govt promised a funding pot of £3 billion towards buses to help level up, it has now cut that funding in half.

Boris Johnson: people around the country desperately need better buses, but it will only happen with public control, public ownership and proper funding.

We Own It supports passenger-led campaigns for public control in West and South Yorkshire. Follow them @BetterBusesWY and @BetterBusesSY on Facebook and Twitter.

We are also looking to kick-start local campaigners in Liverpool and Cambridgeshire. Please contact our Better Buses Campaigner if you would like to be involved at matthew@weownit.org.uk


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