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Government National Bus Strategy slammed by public ownership campaigners for failing to improve networks

THE government’s much-heralded National Bus Strategy was slammed by public ownership campaigners today for failing to improve networks.

We Own It said a new £2.5 billion funding package would mean privateers “pocketing even more cash and having their profits subsidised by the state once again.”

It called for public bus services to be taken back into the ownership and control of local authorities.

And bus drivers’ union Unite said the new strategy “will not reverse more than a decade of service cuts that have left communities isolated.”

The government’s strategy will be published tomorrow.

We Own It campaigns manager Pascale Robinson said: “Our buses have been in crisis for years, with millions of miles of routes being cut and fares rocketing. So a funding package from the government that recognises this would be welcome.

“But the reality is that this will do little to improve our ailing bus network. The £2.5bn funding package for our buses will have marginal benefits for passengers so long as we have a deregulated free market Wild West on the network.

“Private bus companies will be pocketing even more cash and have their profits subsidised by the state once again.”

She called for bus services to be taken back into public ownership and run by local authorities.

“This farce has persisted on our buses for decades,” she said.

“It’s time to end it. The mayors of our city regions should use their powers to regulate, meanwhile the government needs to make it much easier for any local authority to bring buses into public control and reverse the ban on publicly owned bus companies so councils can run services directly.

“That’s how we’ll get a bus network that runs for passengers, not for private profit.”

Unite, representing over 70,000 bus workers, warned that the new strategy “could unleash more employment instability across the industry.”

National officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “The National Bus Strategy is an admission that the 1980s deregulation of the bus service has been a complete failure.

“Fares have increased, services have reduced, private operators cherry-pick the most profitable routes and social exclusion has mushroomed as connectivity has been cut.”

He said the new strategy specifically excludes the best solution which would be to allow local authorities to work together to operate their own services.

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