Each week, people across West Yorkshire make over 1.7 million journeys by bus to get to work, travel to school or college, see friends and relatives, and maintain their independence. For those unable or unwilling to travel moderate to long distances across the region by car, they are crucially important, and the flexibility that they can provide to our lives cannot be understated.

Yet despite their importance and the role that buses can play in our everyday lives, the service that many people travelling by bus receive is often abysmal. Instead of well-run, punctual services, passengers have to deal with buses that are frequently late, or which far too often do not turn up at all, and they can often find that the routes they once took have been scrapped altogether on little more than the whims of the service provider.

As just one example, First Bus who run the buses in Bradford redirected a service connecting the older residents of assisted living accommodation in Eccleshill to Bradford City Centre on the grounds that they claimed it was too difficult to keep its normal route running whilst the improvement works at the Greengates Junction were taking place. Yet despite the works concluding months ago, these residents have now learnt that the service will not have its original route reinstated, leaving them without public transport to the City Centre and just one bus to Apperley Bridge Station each hour.

For a public service, which I firmly believe public transport so very clearly is, this just is not good enough and we need to see dramatic improvements to deliver the better buses that Bradford and West Yorkshire deserve. That is why I am supporting a campaign to bring our buses in West Yorkshire back under public control, just as they have been in London for decades, and just as the Mayor of Greater Manchester has recently delivered with his Manchester Bee Network.

This “franchising model” where bus operators are contracted to local transport bodies like the West Yorkshire Combined Authority will not be the solution to all of the problems facing buses and public transport, but it will be a powerful start and an opportunity we must firmly grasp with both hands.

After almost four decades, bringing buses back under public control will end the absolute disaster that the 1980s deregulation outside of London created and it will bring public accountability back to public transport. Most importantly however, it will ensure that public transport is run in the interests of the passengers who use them and the public that depend upon them, just as it should be, rather than the shareholders who are profiting off them.

Not only this, but bringing our buses back under public control and ultimately into public ownership will deliver more consistent standards of service in vehicles and customer care, and by bringing public transport under one umbrella, we’ll be able to see simpler and better-integrated ticketing with better value fares and more joined up public transport as a whole where our bus network runs in cooperation with rail services and the long overdue mass transit system for West Yorkshire.

Ultimately, this not only delivers a better service for existing passengers but creates a more enticing service for those potential passengers who have so far shunned unreliable buses and underinvested-in public transport for the better reliability afforded by their cars, which in turn encourages further investment to provide an even better public transport system.

Whilst the Government will try to say that all of this is possible without bringing buses back under public control and into public ownership, the simple fact is that the 40-year-old model of privatised buses, operators and networks just has not delivered for passengers, and has left us with substandard services. So if we want to see the buses that we all deserve and a public transport system that truly serves the public, we must take our buses back.

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