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BORIS JOHNSON’S bus expansion plan needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, given the Prime Minister’s history of failure to follow through on big infrastructure projects, Unite said today.
However, the union welcomed the promise to improve frequency, cut fares and provide 4,000 zero-emission buses in England and Wales.
In a Commons statement Mr Johnson also promised 250 miles of new cycle routes across England, with dozens of “mini-Holland” schemes for town centres.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “This bus bonanza could herald a new dawn for passengers and those working in the industry after a decade of neglect of this sector by successive Tory governments.
“But we will need to look at the fine print. Should these ambitious plans come to fruition in the next five years, we will need to ensure that they do not come at the expense of the pay and terms and conditions of our members.
“We won’t tolerate any race to the bottom in this respect.
“A good start would be to reverse the austerity measures which led to the axing of 3,000 routes in England alone, consequently cutting off people and communities from work, leisure and healthcare facilities.”
Mr Morton also pointed to Mr Johnson’s abandoned grand schemes when he was mayor of London, including a garden bridge across the Thames and an island airport in the Thames estuary.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald described the £5 billion allocated for the bus plan as “paltry,” adding that it would not be enough to reverse underinvestment.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union is seeking urgent meetings with ministers to ensure that bus workers’ experiences are included in the government’s bus strategy to be published this year.
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