London bus fares cap should apply to Tyneside also – Stephen Hepburn MP

A Transport for London bus. Picture by PA
A Transport for London bus. Picture by PA

I want the best for the North East – and that includes London’s better buses.

If fares are capped in the capital at £1.50 then why not here on Tyneside?

One report this week found we’re paying up to FOUR times more for journeys here than down there.

That’s unfair in anyone’s book and why I think we need to reassert democratic control of a public service currently run for private profit.

Staff aren’t to blame so don’t have a go at drivers, inspectors, mechanics, cleaners or managers keeping the country moving. The fault lies in letting big commercial operators cherry pick routes and charge a ransom.

Buses are a route to the world and glue communities together when they account for two thirds of all public transport journeys, coaches carrying as many people around the country as trains.

Higher fares are largely why passengers on buses are down 4.2% in England outside London since 2005 and lower fares why ridership’s up 23.5% in the ‘Big Smoke’.

The wheels coming off public funding for buses under Tory austerity isn’t helping. Nor are operators viewing routes as a ticket to high speed profits, a Public Service Vehicle licence to print money – money that should be invested back into the industry.

It’s why Labour’s getting moving on buses under Jeremy Corbyn and Andy McDonald, our party’s shadow transport spokesman who was in Jarrow not very long ago.

We’re promising to give elected councillors authority over routes, fares and subsidies and, if voters in our area want to recreate a municipal bus service to join the likes of low fare Blackpool and Nottingham where the public’s running the show, we’ll be on the road to a cheaper publicly owned operation.

We’ll reverse funding cuts to bus services since 2010 by pledging an extra £1,3billion investment as well as giving vital decision-making power back to local councils.

Labour’s promising too that we’ll introduce free bus travel for 13 million under-25s with ring-fenced cash from road tax.

And we’ll maintain free and concessionary travel for pensioners and others when the Tory threat to axe free TV licences for the over-75s proves Conservative pledges are worthless.

No wonder people don’t believe a word Theresa May, Boris Johnson and the rest of the motley Conservative crew say when under the Tories the elderly will be forced to pay £154.50 to watch television despite the Tory election manifesto two years ago stating they’d keep all existing pensioner benefits.

Tories trying to shift blame onto the BBC is dishonest cowardice when the Conservative Government itself stopped funding free licences that are a lifeline for isolated folk whose best friend is the TV.

You don’t need to win a quiz show like Tipping Point or Mastermind to work out the Tories could try to pull the same stunt on free bus passes, withdrawing subsidies then blaming bus companies.

Even car drivers have a vested interest in people getting on buses because it means fewer vehicles on the road.

What’s good enough for London is good enough for us. Reduce fares now.