Last week Amanda Ramsay won the “top of the policies” vote at Pragmatic Radicalism’s top of the policies event in Bristol, chaired by Maria Eagle MP, shadow transport secretary. The winning proposal was for a “Better Deal on the Buses”, to bring buses under a new regulatory framework
People like me who live in Bristol would like to be able to leave our front doors, walk just a few minutes to a bus stop and easily reach work, meetings, job interviews, the main shopping areas, visit friends or just explore the outskirts of the city. That’s what Londoners enjoy, so why can’t we in Bristol?
I want to see cities like Bristol negotiating better deals with the likes of First Group, to deliver more routes, better reliability and lower prices.
It’s time to use the powers granted to metropolitan cities like Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol by the last Labour government, to regulate fares, routes, frequency of services and improve customer relations.
Private bus operators outside London enjoy a whopping £2 billion a year in tax payers’ money, but in Bristol it’s often cheaper when two or more people are travelling to take a taxi than to ride a bus. It causes traffic congestion, more dangers for cyclists and a weaker bus system itself, as customers vote with their feet and often only freedom pass users are passengers, meaning no income stream.
Poor services have driven a 60% drop in customers outside London on the buses since the Tories let private companies take over in 1985.
With effective, determined political leadership, conviction and planning, I believe Bristol could attract more investment from private companies, better able to do business here if we have a properly integrated transport system, that works for the whole population not just those wealthy enough to run cars.
Passengers need to be at the heart of transport planning, not just profit. This means being willing to take on the powerful vested interests in the private train and bus companies that benefit from the current system. Labour is on the side of the people not the wealthy few and we can take this battle on.
I was part of the UK campaign to re-regulate buses in cities outside London, when working in parliament for Manchester MP Graham Stringer. Manchester is so well governed and politically led by Labour, the city council is still winning vast new sums of money from central government for Metro extensions, even during a double-dip recession.
Now it must be Bristol’s turn.
Amanda Ramsay is development officer for Bristol South CLP and a former Labour councillor