SHADOW Transport Secretary Michael Dugher claimed the bus market was broken today as he launched a fierce attack on transport firms.
Mr Dugher described buses as the “lifeline” of towns and cities and warned the young, those in rural areas and the less well-off were the hardest hit by the domination of services a handful of operators.
He claimed buses were in “crisis” and services covering one million miles in Yorkshire had been lost since the last election.
Speaking at Labour’s local election campaign launch in Leeds, he said: “It’s clear that like the energy market, the bus market is broken and isn’t working for the public interest.
“The majority of the bus market is dominated by just five firms yet all the powers lies with these companies and not with communities and passengers.”
Labour is promising to give transport authorities outside London a raft of powers to re-regulate bus services in a similar way to the capital.
Mr Dugher added: “Operators will no longer to be able to decide just to run on the most profitable routes.
“Through cross-subsidisation they will have to run routes that are vital for local communities as part of that overall contract.
“Some of the big bus companies like Stagecoach want to keep the big phblic subsidies, keep making the big profits and paying themselves the big bonuses and keeping the power when it comes to setting routes and fares.”
Bus services outside london were de-regulated almost 30 years ago in the hope competition would give passengers more choice and better value for money fares.
But critics argue a small number of operators dominate many markets, communities have lost services companies deem unprofitable, and it is hard to integrate buses with other public transport.
The last Labour government introduced ‘quality contracts’ to give transport authorities greater control over buses but they been criticised for being overly bureaucratic and so far no area has adopted them.
Mr Dugher, who is defending the Barnsley East seat at the election, said: “We want to see bus services that provide a better service for the travelling public, better value for money for the taxpayer where power is in the hands of local communities and passengers not the big bus barons.”