Wednesday 14 February 2018

As Clear As Mud

Long time readers of the blog - God bless you - will recall that prior to the 2015 General Election I sent emails to all the prospective candidates for my constituency, inviting them to meet me to discuss their public transport policies. Only one took the trouble to respond, and a few days later Russel Whiting, the Labour candidate was sitting on my sofa answering my questions - you can see that post by clicking here.

So when, in November, all the talk and rumour was about yet more bus cuts I wrote to Jeremy Corbyn, who is a transport enthusiast, to ask what Labour's official policy regarding sponsored bus services was. Here is what I sent;

Hello Jeremy
I am writing to you with two hats on. firstly as owner of Steve;s Bus & Train Page, a pubic transport blog attracting over 15,000 page views a month. Not huge, but not bad for a niche topic either.
Secondly I'm writing as a bus passenger living in the country, who has seen so many bus services cut over the last 7 years, leaving so many people with no links to the nearest town or city.

In recent days the local news around the country has been of County Councils having to find yet more savings, and bus budgets are once more in the firing line, which will leave thousands more people trapped in their homes. While recent emphasis has been on mental health and loneliness future cuts to vital community links will do nothing to aid mental health, indeed many people will find it tough to attend hospital appointments etc. It will also impact negatively on congestion etc.

I am aware you are a transport enthusiast, and would be extremely interested to hear what your views are on this subject, and how Labour would help those people affected by transport cuts re-establish their local links. I do have potential solutions myself which I'm positive no one in Government would have the courage to implement, but it's not rocket science.
I would be delighted if you could find time in your busy schedule to address these issues, either in writing, or I would be happy to meet you at Westminster for a natter. Please take a look at my blog, and you will see I'm serious and not a time waster.

Btw my local MP is Therese Coffey, so you will understand why I have approached you rather than start locally.

Steve W

Yesterday I finally received a reply from Labour Party Central Office, and I eagerly opened the email to find out what the policy regarding sponsored bus services was. To be honest I never expected a personal natter with himself, but if you don't ask etc.. Anyway this is what I read;

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your email regarding Labour’s transport policy.

The Tories are failing to stand up for passengers, road users and pedestrians. Costs are rising, public money is being wasted, and promised investment is not being delivered.

Under-investment is leading to chaos and cost to commuters. Since the Tories came to power rail fares have rocketed by 27 per cent - that's a rise three times faster than the growth in wages. Some season tickets are up by over 40 per cent and bus fares have also risen by 27 per cent on average.

We were told that higher fares would fund investment, but vital projects have been delayed for years and passenger satisfaction is in decline as commuters are paying even more for increasingly overcrowded and unreliable trains.

Labour will put passengers’ first, bringing rail into public ownership. Routes will naturally return to public ownership as private contracts expire, meaning profits can be re-invested to improve services & hold fares down.

We have consistently been in favour of building an additional runway in the South East of England. But this support has always been conditional on four tests being met: on capacity, climate change, noise and air quality and the wider national benefits.

In 2010, the Government cut £4bn from the strategic road network, scrapping schemes that were later reinstated at a huge cost, and have failed to invest in council maintained roads, which have an estimated repairs backlog of £12bn.

Labour will stand up for passengers and road users by reforming our transport networks and delivering major projects that have stalled under the Tories.
Kind regards,
Membership Services and Correspondence
The Labour Party

Erm, yes, George. Thanks for that but what about your policy regarding sponsored bus services! If anyone reading this has contacts within the Labour Party perhaps you can point them in this direction and try and get an answer. Alternatively if Jeremy Paxman is reading this then put your knuckledusters on and get me answers! I have sent a reply asking for an answer to my question and will report back if I get a reply, but don't expect it soon!


  1. Trying to get even a reply from MP's or local councillors is very difficult few bother to reply and if you get a reply it usually largely ignores what you have asked them. I have tries requiring simply Yes/No answers from them but they even ignore that. Even harder is to try to even get them to tell you what their policy is. At best as you have found out is you get meaningless and vague response.

  2. I think they tabled a motion not so long a go to allow local authorities to set up there own bus companies, if commercial operators would not run services. So for example if Waveney district or Suffolk Coastal voted to set up there own public company they could and funding would be made available. However it was voted down by the tories. But generally I think that is what they want to allow councils to set up there own companies if they wanted to.

  3. Taxi giant Uber’s new boss said on Thursday he wants to tighten its grip on public transport.

    Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the firm could branch into buses and bikes.

    “I want to run the bus systems for a city,” said Khosrowshahi at a conference.

    “I want to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway… get out and have an Uber waiting for you.”

    He added that Uber could eventually become a platform for other transport providers, similar to Amazon and its third-party sellers.

    The company, which is eyeing an initial public offering, posted a $4.5 billion (£3.2 billion) annual loss on revenues of $7.4 billion hit by US marketing spending as it attempted to improve its image following a sexual harassment scandal. Uber won a $9 billion investment in December from a clutch of investors led by SoftBank.
    It already has a food delivery and trucking app, and it is trialling bike-sharing in San Francisco.
    It is also working on its self-driving car project, competing with the likes of Google.

    “Cars are to us what books are to Amazon,” said the chief executive, in relation to how Amazon started out.
    Khosrowshahi’s long-term vision for Uber echoes that of ex-chief executive Travis Kalanick, who quit last year amid a string of scandals and increasing competition.
    Kalanick was adamant Uber could become as ubiquitous and “as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone”.
    Uber is appealing Transport for London’s decision to revoke its London licence.
    More about: | Business | Uber

    1. The guy needs to take off his rose tinted specs, because it isn't easy to just start running a bus service like that across the UK

  4. Hi Steve emailing Labour's central office can produce shall we say interesting results.

    Best of emailing Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough MP) who holds a shadow transport positions.

    He is a thoroughly decent bloke and should get back to you with some detail.

    My only suggestion in the email you send him is provide concrete examples of cuts and services lost, villages without links etc...

    And ask what Labour intends to do etc... Would be worth mentioning that neighbouring authorities to 'Boro (Darlington, Stockton, and Hartlepool) have totally cut their subsidised services due to funding and despite their being a Tees Valley Mayor (a Tory) there appears to be little actual support for buses in Tees Valley bar words from this Mayor.

    If this does not prove fruitful it could be that the issue is placed under local government in which case the email should go to Andrew Gwynne.

    Either I wish you the best in this and would be interested to see your response.

    I could give my perspective as a party member but i'm not sure it would be of benefit.

  5. Britain's bus coverage hits 28-year low

    I suspect 28 years is the only period they have any real records.
    It shows the cuts in the East of England at 10% other areas are over 20% but I suspect that's because the East of England did not have much in the way of bus services to start with

    Without change numbers can only continue to fall as with constant cuts and instability of the services and poor reliability and time keeping and very high fares people are simply giving up on them and in many cases the services are simply so inadequate they are of no used to fare paying passengers. To compound it even the concessionary pass holders are giving up on buses and councils are now finding the Schools bus service contract prices are far to high so will be making cuts there

    Unless but companies raise their game and the government provides some support bus services out side of the major urban areas will just disappear
    One encouraging sign is the taxi and private hire companies are now showing interest in getting g in to bus work. With bus fares so high they can see a big gap in the market to provide frequent and flexible services

    In this areas Essex are cutting services and Norfolk & Suffolk plan to do

  6. How can you tell when a politician is lying. Easy. their lips move.

  7. Norfolk County Council has scrapped plans to make sweeping cuts to bus subsidies, in a move welcomed by passenger campaigning body Bus Users UK.
    The group has been working extensively with passengers in the area to ensure their concerns were raised during the Council’s consultation on the issue. The result was an unprecedented level of responses, leading the Environment, Transport and Development Committee to propose the plans be dropped in favour of an increase in Council Tax.

  8. Bus usage down 1.5% across England and down by 2.3% in London. Reading though bucks the trend with usage increasing

  9. From 18/19th February First Essex Buses made alterations to 50-odd routes all over Essex, a fair few of them being frequency reductions. In the west both Arriva the Shires & Carousel also made more frequency reductions at High Wycombe.

    Next Saturday 24th Metroline’s introduces some frequency reductions on their 84 and 242 in Hertfordshire.