Those of us who live living in rural communities often feel that they have little influence over the local transport we depend on. It can prove impossible to prevent the loss of a much valued bus service or improve the condition of a local train station. Services often do not join up I have seen the ridiculous situation in Prudhoe where buses often leave the train station bus stop just a few minutes before a train full of passengers pulls in. It is the absence of integrated ticketing and co-ordinated timetables put barriers in the way of people choosing public transport.
We have to acknowledge that a privatised train industry and a deregulated bus market has failed passengers. It impossible for communities to influence decision-making, when profit is put before passengers and we are never consulted over the loss of services or increases in fares.
The next Labour Government will give county regions greater ‘London style’ powers over bus and rail services. A regulated bus system, with fares and routes set by an accountable transport authority and not by private operators. We will enable better integration between bus and rail services, helped by smart integrated ticketing.
Transport investment in our region is tiny compared to the capital. Crossrail and tube improvements may be needed but if you do add everything up it means that £2,700 will have been spent on each resident of London compared to just £5 on those in the north-east1. That’s over 500 times as much and is simply not fair.
The Tory-led Government have failed to support transport authorities who want to use the legislation passed under Labour to improve bus services, the only reforms we have seen help the operating companies increase profits while we have to make do with a worse service. The biggest example of this is the continued use Pacer trains on the Tyne Valley line. The Tories have changed the law to allow the Train operators to impose above inflation rises but not imposed the condition which should include replacement of out-dated rolling stock.
Labour will devolve £30 billion of funding over five years which including funding for housing, transport, business support. That’s £30 billion that will come out of Whitehall and into our regions. If elected, I will work with residents and the local authority to ensure that a fair proportion of that, is used to address transport issues in our rural communities.