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From: The Socialist issue 823, 3 September 2014: Fourfold rise in youth on poverty pay

Search site for keywords: Public transport - Transport - Planning - Competition - Buses - Council

Planning, not competition, to meet our transport needs

Unite 'Save Our Buses' rally, photo Paul Mattsson

Unite 'Save Our Buses' rally, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Apparently, outside London where bus use is expanding, fewer people than ever are using buses because of rising prices. A 'centre-left' think tank has produced a report that criticises bus privatisation and deregulation. But it fails to call for public ownership.

High bus fares and infrequent services may make buses an unattractive option but the arguments for increasing 'competition' have been shown in practice to be a failure.

Competing companies try to undercut each other bidding for routes by attacking their workers' conditions and, from the quality of some buses I've travelled on recently, saving on cleaning and perhaps even maintenance.

Is this better for the passenger? No. There have to be concerns about safety when firms compete to undercut one another to secure contracts.

Are they making savings on maintenance, cleaning, over-working drivers? The bus on one leg of my journey to and from work didn't seem to get cleaned for about a fortnight, judging by the mud, twigs and leaves littering the floor.

Far from reducing prices, competition massively increased the cost of my daily travel. I have to catch two buses and one firm used to provide both services, making it possible to buy a single ticket for the whole journey. But they lost the contract with the council for one of them.

Neither firm now accepts each other's tickets, resulting in a near doubling of the price I pay to get to work and back.

I live in a Labour council under a Welsh Labour Government. Both pay lip-service to the idea of an integrated transport policy to provide a better, more environmentally friendly service to the public. Yet both slashed subsidies for buses as they passed on Con-Dem cuts.

It's not competition but planning that's needed for public transport. It has to be run as a public service not a profit opportunity for cowboy operators.

Public transport could be efficient, cost-effective and reduce massively our impact on the environment but for that to happen it needs to be publicly owned and democratically controlled.

Written on a bus to work by a Socialist Party Wales member

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Article dated 3 September 2014

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