Labour can put an end to Yorkshire’s public transport nightmare - here’s how: Jon Trickett

Rural bus services in Yorkshire can often be patchy. Picture by Simon Hulme
Rural bus services in Yorkshire can often be patchy. Picture by Simon Hulme
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NOT so long ago, I had to make a speech just outside Bradford, at Salts Mill. I had to be there by 8.30am on a Saturday. As it happened, my car was in the garage.

Now, I live in West Yorkshire, in Ackworth, just 30 miles away, but the journey by public transport was going to be so long that it was impossible to get there without setting off the night before! Ok, those were unusual circumstances, but let me give you another example.

Rail Passengers frequently have to put up with overcrowded trains. Picture by Simon Hulme

Rail Passengers frequently have to put up with overcrowded trains. Picture by Simon Hulme

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A journey from Hebden Bridge to Sheffield by public transport can take anything over two hours, despite being just over 40 miles. Think about it. You can get to London from my house in Ackworth by public transport in almost the same amount of time.

But it can often take hours to get from one part of Yorkshire to another when using public transport – how on earth can we expect our economy here to take off with such poor links? Many of the trains that serve Yorkshire are past their sell-by date and should be in a museum.

Less than half of Northern trains now running on time

This is a failure by franchise operators, a failure by successive Tory governments and, for all its fanfare, a failure of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Sorting out transport in our region should have been at the centre of this policy, but it hasn’t. Under a Labour government, it will.

The Tories have failed to invest in transport in our area, and they plan to spend just £511 per person on transport in Yorkshire and the Humber. That is the lowest of any of England’s regions. In London they plan to spend £3,636 per person. That’s £7 for every £1 spent in Yorkshire. This is not surprising, in spite of Boris Johnson’s promises. Over the last decade London received £66bn more in transport funding that the North.

‘Crisis’ on the buses

Furthermore, London and the South East have dominated the UK economy for too long, so we will set up a national investment bank with regional development banks to help unlock £500bn of investment and lending, including from the private sector, to deliver the critical infrastructure we need.

We’ll reverse decades of under-investment in transport infrastructure that has strangled the economic potential of the North and we will deliver 850,000 new jobs by 2050. We’ll reform our railways by bringing private franchises into public ownership as they expire. We will create a new dynamic public operator where profits are reinvested into keeping fares down and improving the quality of service.

A Labour government will also deliver ‘‘Crossrail for the North’’, connecting Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle, and the cities in between.

But for areas like the one I have represented, and hope to continue to represent, we need more than this to flourish. We need well-funded and expanded bus services.

In rural areas, like those in the Hemsworth constituency, buses are a lifeline for many people who use them to get to work, to study, to see friends and to do their shopping. They are crucial threads that connect our communities together.

This is why Labour will completely reverse Tory cuts to bus services since 2010, and in addition to reinstated services, we will fund as many new bus services. Labour will invest £1.3bn of revenue funding per year for bus service reinstatement and improvement.

Labour will also end the senseless Tory ban on local authorities setting up new municipal bus companies, run for and by local communities, and will support authorities setting up their own bus companies.

As many readers of The Yorkshire Post will know, Labour is fully committed to free bus passes for pensioners, a great legacy of the last Labour government, and we will deliver a new young person’s free pass for under 25s.

And we’ll make sure bus services make adjustments for any disabled passenger on the bus, including policies for priority wheelchair spaces.

On December 12 voters have the chance to cast their ballot in a once in a generation election. What’s on offer is a chance to transform our country, and a change to transform the north – by voting Labour.

It’s long overdue. Like The Yorkshire Post, I have been championing the North’s potential for my entire political life. With Labour’s transformational agenda of investment for our regions, we are closer than we’ve ever been. Let’s take those final steps and begin a new chapter for Yorkshire and the North.

Jon Trickett is Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Labour’s candidate for Hemsworth, where he has served as MP since 1996.