Today at PMQs Tory MPs joked about the massive cuts to our bus services...
This jocularity coincided with the publication of Campaign for Better Transport's report: 'Buses in Crisis - A report on bus funding across England and Wales 2010 – 2018'. This report reveals that Wiltshire Council's spending on buses was cut from £7,077,866 in 2010/11, to zero in 2017/18. The amount budgeted for in 2018/19 is just £2,595,500.
These cuts have come from three different directions:
- Bus Service Operators Grant, which goes to all bus operators was cut by 20% in 2012-13, and has not increased since.
- Funding for local authorities has been cut in general and this has fed through to cuts in support for bus services, which have less legal protection than other local authority services.
- The free travel scheme for pensioners and the disabled is underfunded by the Government, meaning that operators are having to carry people for free without proper funding to reflect the cost of this.
As a result over 3,000 bus routes have been scrapped, mainly in rural areas of England and Wales.
Buses have also faced increased traffic congestion which adds to the costs of operation. While most bus services are run by commercial bus companies, the services supported by Wiltshire Council are in most cases vital to local communities and the many people who rely on buses to get to work, school, shops, healthcare etc, as well as giving access to the countryside for those without cars. These supported services often run at times (evenings and weekends) and to places (such as rural and suburban areas) that have no other public transport.
Here in Marlborough we have been particularly hard-hit by cuts to the 70A/72A evening service between Marlborough and Swindon and a less frequent bus service to Bedwyn station. The impacts of these cuts can be seen in terms of increased road congestion and air pollution (the level of ultra-fine particles was 4 times the safe limit, in London Road on 6th June) together with reduced foot-fall, leading to more in shop closures on our High Street.
In 2010, the UK government signed up to all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 11 calls on the government and local authorities to 'provide access to safe, affordable, sustainable transport for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons, by 2030'.
You can find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs
Unfortunately, our Tory politicians seem to think that these SDGs don't apply to people in England and are proceeding with cuts to essential services that they know will further increase the gap between rich and poor.
Dr Sam L J Page