Local bus services could be handed to not-for-profit organisations or community groups under Labour plans to confront the country’s biggest private sector operators.
Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher has today vowed that Labour would grant councils the power to award local bus licenses and support residents to run services if it takes power in May’s General Election.
The party has warned over 30 million miles of bus journeys have disappeared under local authority funding cuts since 2010, leaving rural communities ‘stranded’.
Mr Dugher told The Independent that plans would ‘rebalance’ the bus market and help local regions ‘break the stranglehold’ of the largest operators.
The party equated the policy with its actions to tackle the ‘big six’ energy firms. It branded the current market ‘broken’, warning that 2,000 routes had been reduced or lost over the past five years while fares have risen by 25%.
Analysis from the Campaign for Better Transport recently warned council funding to support subsided bus travel had fallen by £44m since 2010, leaving numerous communities ‘cut off from society’.
Mr Dugher said: ‘Like the energy market, the bus market is broken. Developing a thriving not-for-profit sector is one way Labour will rebalance our bus market. The significant development of not-for-profit model will help city and county regions break the stranglehold that the big private bus operators currently have.
‘There is a proud and growing British tradition of community transport in the UK. It is a sector that serves both rural and urban areas, often operating in areas the commercial operators have turned their back on. In government, Labour will ensure that communities cannot be held to ransom by operators threatening to pull buses and cut services.’