Sunday, 21 May 2017

Party Manifestos on Buses: We've read them so you don't have to!

Obviously buses won't be the only thing on people's minds when it comes to deciding how to vote on June 8th, but if you want to take the various parties' policies on buses into account here they are.

The on line versions of the manifestos don't have a search facility and the Conservative one came in very small text with no "enlarge" facility so please forgive us if we've missed something.

Labour has quite a lot to say.  Firstly, like the others it promises to keep the free bus pass. There is no mention of this being "for the duration of this parliament" although it is surely not unreasonable to expect that ALL policies put forward in the manifesto should be taken this way. Here's what it says:

Labour also wants to change the way in which bus services are regulated and provided - or at least to provide local authorities with the tools to do so:

The Bus Services Act, rushed through parliament just before the election was called, will give powers to councils with directly-elected mayors to regulate buses and Labour's policy would extend this to all. There are pros and cons to re-regulation and the Bus Users' Group has taken no view on this to date.  If the suggested new municipal bus companies are to be "publicly run for passengers not profit" there may need to be changes to other legislation, such as the Transport Act 1985, to allow this.

Regulations to protect routes of "critical community value"  would need to come with the funding to provide them.

Labour is also interested in lowering emissions from diesel vehicles

The suggestion that "We" (i.e. a Labour government) will retrofit buses with cleaner engines suggests that they (i.e. a Labour government)would meet the cost through grants. If that's not the case it will be the passengers that end up paying through higher fares.

The most interesting of the Lib Dems' policies is that to provide cut-price bus travel for young people.

This will be very welcome to those in the target age group (Stagecoach already offer cheap fares to under-19s and students) but it is essential that the reimbursement to bus operators for providing the concession is adequate. Young people together with Over-60s make up the majority of bus companies' customers and there are already issues surrounding how much bus companies are paid to accept the Elderly and Disabled Passes. If they are not reimbursed adequately for accepting concessionary passes this will only lead to higher fares for other users or the withdrawal of services that may be well-used but which are no longer commercially viable.

Other Liberal Democrat policies on buses are:

The party doesn't say how, exactly, it will halt the decline in bus services" other than by commissioning a review. The Bus Users Group would be happy to undertake that review for no fee and, in fact, is happy to supply the answer now:  Increase the funding for them!

"Principal" local authorities, to which powers to regulate buses would be given, are not defined and may or may not be the same as those with directly-elected mayors that have already gained this right through the Bus Services Act.  Powers to improve ticketing and introduce network-wide ticketing are already in the new Act but unless such powers come with funding and unless the legitimate concerns of commercial bus operators over revenue can me met then they are unlikely to be used.

The Conservatives have the least to say about buses.  Like the others the promise to keep the free buses passes for elderly and disabled people:

Note the "for the duration of this parliament", which can be taken in one of two ways: either that they will not continue beyond 2022 (or whenever the next election happens to be) or that they will definitely continue until 2022 at the very least.  Labour and the Lib Dems make no such stipulation.

The only other mention of buses in the manifesto is a reference to reducing pollution from diesel vehicles:

"Investing" in low-emission buses and "supporting" (much needed) audio-visual displays suggests that some funding will be available to make them happen, although there is no suggestion of making either a requirement for bus operators to provide.  The Conservatives also appear to fallen into the common trap of assuming the "community minibuses" are the answer to the rural public transport problem, something which recent experience in Cumbria and Lancashire shows is not the case.

At the time of posting no other party manifestos were available on line.

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