YP Letters: Sheffield battle shows why buses must serve public needs, not owners’ profits

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From: Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley.

IN recent months, I’ve been campaigning to make sure that people in Meadowhead are able to rely on a decent bus service to the proposed new site of Meadowgreen Surgery in Jordanthorpe.

You might think that bus companies would be keen to ensure important locations like GP surgeries are served by public transport, but you’d be wrong. Bus companies seem indifferent to the needs of patients.

Our privatised, deregulated, and fragmented bus system means that companies are incentivised by the desire to turn a profit and, as a result, prioritise routes that are most cost-effective.

A recent RMT survey found that 72 per cent of bus workers believed that their company prioritised making a profit over providing a service.

This focus on profitability means that there is no guarantee that vital public services, such as GP surgeries, will be well-served by bus routes.

This situation has been made worse by austerity as, in response to cuts to their own budgets, squeezed local authorities have reduced funding to bus services. Since 2010, there’s been over £170m cut from funding of bus services in England and, as a result, 3,088 routes have been reduced, altered or withdrawn.

Supported bus services in Yorkshire and Humber have been particularly badly hit by cuts and have lost almost half of their funding over the last eight years.

It’s unsurprising then that 76 per cent of bus workers think that bus services are underfunded, while only two per cent of those surveyed believed that the Government has good policies for the industry.

The failure to provide adequate bus services has significant knock-on effects for people’s quality of life as many of us rely on public transport to access health, education, and leisure services.

If bus routes don’t provide regular and reliable connections to important public services then our wellbeing will suffer as a result. An inadequate bus service also leads to wider transport problems, especially road congestion.

We need to totally redesign our public transport system to ensure that buses serve the needs of our communities. That’s why a Labour government would empower councils to re-regulate local bus services and create municipal bus companies that are publicly run for passengers, not profit. For too long the bus industry has put profit before passengers. It’s about time we changed that.