Happy New Year everyone! Today our public transport creaked back in to action as millions of people headed back to work after the Christmas break. The news has been dominated by frustrated rail passengers who have yet again been given a New Year slap in the face by both the Government and train operators as fares increase by for the umpteenth time meaning increases of 25 per cent in since 2010, more than three times faster than average wage increases.
Eye-watering increases of that scale are bad but spare a thought though for the thousands of people across the country that find themselves living in public transport deserts, devoid of any buses or trains. This is the situation an ever increasing number of people find themselves in as a result of swingeing reductions to vital local bus services over the last 6 years.
Our Buses in Crisis research found that since 2010 a whopping £78 million has been cut from local authority supported bus services, 25 per cent of the overall spend on bus in England and Wales. Despite the obvious gloom facing many local bus services there is some light at the end of the tunnel in 2016.
The first chink of light is the Government’s Buses Bill due to be presented to Parliament in February. This bill will provide extra powers to councils to have greater controls over network planning and ticketing.
The second positive is the growing movement to save local bus services. 2015 was a fantastic year for local campaigners to fight for their local bus services. From Somerset to Hertfordshire and Hampshire to North Yorkshire we were constantly inspired by the dedication and determination of local people and communities to save their local bus services. This year we plan to expand our local campaigns network, helping to train, mobilise and mentor even more local campaigners to really drive the message home to politicians and decision makers. The Buses Bill provides the perfect opportunity to do this.
Thirdly, we are in the process of planning some exciting campaigning over the next year or so. Make sure you watch this space for details of how you can get involved.
Despite it being the first day back at work I’m already feeling positive about this year as I firmly believe we can show just how important buses are to people up and down the country. 2016 really can be the year that we ensure buses are recognised by the powers that be as a vitally important part of our lives! Happy New Year!