Northern leaders must put buses back into public control, demands TUC

City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis. Picture: Chris Etchells
City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis. Picture: Chris Etchells
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The TUC has today called on mayors and council leaders across the region to take local bus services back into public control and invest in a region-wide tram network, in order to fight climate change.

The TUC and its affiliated unions are supporting the Global Climate Strike led today by school children across the world, following a vote last week at its annual Congress in Brighton.

But now the Congress has turned its sights to northern leaders and demand they turn words into action.

In recent months councils across the region, including Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, York, Sheffield, Doncaster, and Hull have all declared climate emergencies.

The TUC is insisting councils now use the powers they have under the 2017 Bus Services Act to franchise services, giving them greater control over service routes, frequency, investment in clean tech and integration with the wider transport network.

Last week the TUC submitted evidence to the South Yorkshire Bus Commission, calling on Mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis to begin the statutory investigation into bus franchising, and to begin radical investment to expand Sheffield’s tram network for the benefit of all of South Yorkshire.

The TUC believes that with bus services under local control, and serious investment in tram systems, councils committed to fighting the climate emergency can radically overhaul their networks to provide fast, efficient, low carbon public transport services.

TUC Regional Secretary Bill Adams said: “We must meet the challenge of this climate emergency with radical action and bold investment in low carbon industries and high quality, unionised green jobs.

“Workers must not pay the price for the lifestyles of the 1%, or failures of global action."

“Our buses, a lifeline for working people, are in crisis. Every day that buses fail local communities, working people are forced to use more polluting alternatives. It is time to put passengers before profit.

But Mr Jarvis said even though he had the power to make decisions, he did not have the funds.

He said: “The 2017 Bus Services Act gives me the authority to make decisions about bus services, including options such as franchising. What it doesn’t give me is the money needed to invest in our bus system to improve services.

“The latest figures show that London is able to subsidise its bus system by around £700m a year. None of our Metro Mayors across the country, including me, are able to do this.

“Only when the Government takes meaningful action to address our country’s regional imbalances and give our communities their fair share of funding and resources, as well as powers, will we begin to close the gap with London.

“Buses are a lifeline for many in South Yorkshire, which is why I’ve asked Clive Betts and a panel of experts to conduct an independent review into how we improve our bus network. Public transport is also at the heart of my £220m Transforming Cities Bid to the Government and I will also be submitting our business case to Government to renew the supertram system in South Yorkshire.”

Mr Jarvis launched a review into South Yorkshire’s buses earlier this year, led by Clive Betts MP.

An expert panel was assembled and the public has been invited to give opinions through a consultation, which ends next week. To give your views visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MCVNLH6