Today (15 November 2023), bus passengers and councillors came together to highlight Leeds City Council’s support for plans to bring West Yorkshire’s buses into public control.
Standing outside the Civic Hall before the council meeting began at 1pm, campaigners and councillors held up giant letters to spell out the message “Regulate for Reliability”
Public control, the system used in London, is also sometimes called re-regulation or franchising. Currently, bus companies have powers over routes, fares, and standards but re-regulation means they operate under contract to the West Yorkshire Mayor, who sets the terms of service.
The action took place as the 2.3 million residents of West Yorkshire have been invited to take part in a vote on bringing buses into public control, with the consultation closing in 8 weeks.
Campaigners at the Better Buses for West Yorkshire group, which organised the event, point to public control as a way to start improving the reliability of buses and are encouraging the public to vote “yes” in the consultation at weownit.org.uk/VotePublicControlWY
The councillors went on to vote on the motion proposed by the controlling Labour Group that said the council “fully supports a franchised bus system in West Yorkshire.”
Deputy Executive Member Cllr Paul Wray (Labour, Hunslet & Riverside) said:
“Franchising the bus service and bringing back public oversight and control will transform the service by putting people’s needs before profit margins. This is why [we] are supporting the Better Buses for West Yorkshire campaign.”
Cllr Lisa Martin encouraged the public to support the plans at consultation pointing to the £1 billion in economic benefits expected from bus franchising saying “publicly controlled buses for the benefit of passengers and the Leeds economy.”
The passengers highlighted the impacts of unreliable services on them, from missed hospital appointments and shifts to children forced to wake up hours earlier to guarantee they can get to school on time.
Passengers also believe that public control will support the bus labour market, citing evidence from Unite the Union that ending the current system of deregulation, which hands decisions over employment standards to operators, reduces the chance of driver shortages developing.
Matthew Topham, a Campaigner at Better Buses for West Yorkshire, said:
“Reliability is a top issue across our region. If the bus doesn’t turn up on time or at all, passengers are left scrambling to get themselves to work, school, or just to see family and friends.
“We know that areas with greater local control of services, like Blackpool, are the most consistently reliable services in the country. We deserve the same here.
“By taking our buses into public control, we’ll unlock new powers to regulate for reliability: fines for bad service, rewards for rapid improvements, and timetables that are set with punctuality, not profits, in mind.”
Gerry Lavery, who lives in New Farnley and campaigns with Leeds Unite Community, said:
“Too often late, always expensive, constantly losing services — we can’t expect people to go on with buses as they are.
“Public control is clearly the first major step we need to fix our network. If we wrestle back control of services, we’ll be able to put the public’s priorities first.
“As campaigners, we won’t be going away until we have a decent bus service that enables people to travel easily to work, visit family and friends, get to appointments on time, go shopping and have a day out.
“In the 21st century, that’s not a lot to ask.”
This post is based on press release issued by Better Buses for West Yorkshire
Photo: Passengers and councillors spell out support for public control on the steps of the Civic Hall
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