The government has announced that their long awaited buses bill could stop councils running bus services and new council run services will be scrapped all together, a move which could damage Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley.
Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, has today (8th June 2016) warned that the reliable bus service is key to Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley could be jeopardised by the government’s new busses bill.
Tom said: “The bus industry across the UK is in crisis. Figures out today to accompany the launch of the bill show there has been a fall of 27 million passenger bus journeys taken in England since last year – and this follows falls in past years.
“This is a bill with one major flaw in it – it prevents councils running their own bus services in areas where they will be needed.”
“Figures show that since 2005, the number of miles covered by English local authorities supported buses has decreased by a huge 55 million miles. The annual bus stats also shows that bus fares have increased with fares in England increasing by 61% on average between March 2005 and March 2015.
“We were promised that all this would be reversed by the new buses bill which has been launched today, but the reality seems to show that these promises were hollow. We were promised that areas like the Tees Valley with a combined authority and a mayor would get new powers to “franchise” services in their area, but it looks as if this will only occur if the big bus companies are prepared to co-operate.
“The big issue is that the bill effectively outlaws local councils from running bus operations despite a large existing network of local council bus operators who can easily demonstrate they can run proper services for their communities
“Local councils – including Redcar and Cleveland – run their own direct bus services to meet areas of need. In my constituency outlying estates in Guisborough benefit from a council run shopping and commuter service linking the town centre with the outlying estates. Council buses service outlying areas like Easington and provide the only bus link to the East Cleveland Hospital in Brotton. And on an evening, the “Local Link” services connects the villages of East Cleveland long after the dominant commercial operator, Arriva, have put their buses to bed in the garage. These could be at risk if the bill is not altered.
“Ironically, in his report yesterday, Lord Heseltine talked about the commuter flows in the Tees valley and how people need to be simply able to get to the future jobs he talked about. It looks like even if some of these jobs appeared, no one will be able to get to them.”
“If this buses bill is passed, then these areas could all suffer. This bill – which I know has been subject to constant lobbying from the likes of Arriva and Stagecoach since it was first announced – will have to be stringently examined line by line in the Commons and possible downsides like the loss of council services must be combated.”