Labour Party call to place Leeds bus services under public ownership

A Leeds bus company placed under public ownership would improve journeys for passengers frustrated by soaring fares and low-quality service.

Jane Aitchison with Tony Lloyd in Leeds.

That’s the message from the Labour Party as one of its senior MPs came to the city today.

New analysis from the party reveals how bus fares are set to soar over the next few years, while private companies operating on bus routes nationwide are raking in billions of pounds.

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Average fares are set to be 53 per cent higher in 2022 than in 2010 in real terms, the party said, while profits grow for private bus companies. English bus operators have made a total of £3.3 billion in profit since 2009/10, Labour said.

Labour wants to create the freedom for local authorities to form their own bus companies and extend he powers to re-regulate services in all areas that want to take part.

It also wants to protect pensioners’ bus passes and introduce a new free pass for under 25s.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Tony Lloyd MP, who was interim mayor of Greater Manchester and oversaw the city’s public transport network, met Leeds bus users at Cafe Lux in Pudsey yesterday.

He said that spending on transport per person in London is roughly £1,000 compared to £313 in Yorkshire.

“There’s no justification for that,” he said.

He thinks that there needs to be a more integrated transport system which can get passengers from A to B efficiently in a similar way that passengers in the capital can.

The number of local bus passenger journeys in England fell by 85 million, or 1.9 per cent, to 4.36 billion in the year ending March 2018, Labour said.

Jane Aitchison, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Pudsey, said: “We need to encourage kids back on to the buses. If you are young, why would you think you could pay £4.30 into Leeds if you can scrounge a lift off your mum and dad?”

Response by First West Yorkshire, the main bus company in Leeds.

Paul Matthews, managing director of First West Yorkshire, said: “The latest bus statistics highlight the need to raise the profile and the vital role that the bus plays in communities across the country and the need to encourage motorists to consider more sustainable travel options such as the bus.

"In West Yorkshire there are already significant plans in place to improve the customer experience, through investment in buses and priority measures through the Connecting Leeds project and a focus on putting customers at the heart, through the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance.

"Early signs are that recently, passenger numbers are growing significantly in many areas as a result of positive action.

“In Leeds, we share a common objective with the council and local authority, to transform travel for people who live, work in and visit the city and to double passenger numbers over the next decade.

"The City Council is making a multimillion pound investment in the highway network to deliver a reduction in bus journey times and improved reliability, through more measures to provide priorities for buses and real-time information for passengers. For our part, we are delivering a fleet investment of £71million in 284 new vehicles by the end of 2020 that will meet the new Low Emission Zone requirements in the city centre.

“In West Yorkshire we have partnered with other operators and the local authority to improve bus travel, with a new partnership recently announced as the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance.

Quicker journeys, easy-to-understand and affordable fares for people of all ages, more free Wi-Fi, better travel advice and journey planning, and further progress towards carbon-free services are among the commitments bus operators and the Combined Authority have made.

The West Yorkshire Bus Alliance has the objective of putting customers at its heart with commitments including the development of a clearly identifiable brand, a simple fares structure, consistent customer service, further highway improvements to reduce journey times and the continued introduction of clean bus technology.”