Corbyn pledges bus funding boost during Hucknall visit

Jeremy Corbyn arrives at Rolls-Royce Leisure
Jeremy Corbyn arrives at Rolls-Royce Leisure

Jeremy Corbyn pledges £1.3bn per year to reverse cuts and to fund new bus services if Labour are elected, during a visit to Hucknall.

The Labour leader and Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald listened to the concerns of local people at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Centre about the issues they faced after their bus services were cut.

Louise Cooke, a Labour candidate from Hucknall, spoke about the loss of the AOT 8 bus service, and the service run by Littles, linking Hucknall West to Nottingham City Hospital.

"My daughter used it when she was training to be a radiotherapy nurse," she said. "Its cancellation has devastated the area."

Sahala Smith, 28, Selston, is an unpaid carer for her disabled husband, whose attempts to find work have been stymied by the poor service offered by the Rainbow 1.

She said: "It's a one and a half hour trip into Nottingham, and the buses only run once and hour, and they stop at six. I am in hospitality and my hours will never finish at six."

John Pearson, 73, a Labour candidate for Farnfield, said he was campaigning to reinstate a full bus service linking Newark to the King's MIll Hospital.

"The last bus is at 5.30pm so you can't visit people in the evening," he said. "A resident was run over last week in a hit and run incident. Their relative had to pay £80 for the round-trip taxi service. Cuts are isolating a huge chunk of the community."

Mr McDonald said: "Operators are only interested in profit-making routes, the others won't be serviced. We have to change that mentality. But they have to be there for social value. They are important to communities."

He said the Vehicle Excise Duty Fund, ringfenced by the Conservatives to build more roads, would be used as a sustainable transport fund by Labour.

He spoke of the environmental benefits and talked about their importance in ending social exclusion and isolation.

The roundtable discussion heard that 3,000 bus routes have cut or withdrawn since 2010, but that private bus operators had enjoyed more than £3bn in dividends.

Mr Corbyn said: “Bus services have been devastated by nine years of austerity. Thousands of routes have been axed, fares have soared and passenger numbers are in freefall.

“Local services are a lifeline for many, particularly the elderly and those in rural areas. Cuts have had disastrous consequences for our towns and city centres and for air pollution and the environment.

“Bus networks are essential for towns and cities and for tackling rural poverty and isolation, which is why Labour is committed to creating thriving bus networks under public ownership.”

He said increasing bus use would combat air pollution and climate change impacts, address inequalities and support local communities.

He said Labour plans to put communities in control of local services by regulating and bringing into public ownership local services, and introducing free bus fares for young people.

Mr McDonald added: “The Tories have neglected buses, along with the people and communities who rely on them.

"Slashing bus funding damages our communities by cutting people off from work and leisure and worsening congestion and air pollution.

“Labour is announcing an end to austerity for buses and the funding needed to transform local services to allow our towns and cities to thrive.”

Mr Corbyn travelled up from London by train, and took the tram to Wilkinson Street depot to see NET's trams, and Nottingham City Transport's new fleet of environmentally-friendly bio-gas buses.

He told the Dispatch: "Margaret Thatcher said a young man must account himself a failure if he hasn't got a car by the age of 25.

"But the whole idea that you use a bus as a last resort is absurd. When you have got a good quality service it becomes a normal way of travelling. When fares were reduced in London you saw everyone starting to use them."

He said car-ownership had dropped in his constituency because of good public transport.

Plans for free bus travel for under-25s to help generate lifelong increases in public transport use was also announced.

"They will grow up with the bus being the norm," he said. "Buses are a more efficient use of road space."

Asked about Labour's current rating in the opinion polls, Mr Corbyn said: "I never comment on opinion polls.

"We are campaigning on an alternative message which is to end austerity and to bring about a more equal society. More than 1m people access food banks in the fifth richest country in the world."

Jerry Hague, Labour's Parliamentary candidate for Sherwood, discussed the party's prospects in the forthcoming local elections.

"I think locally Brexit issue is causing a lot of apathy and of concern about the political process and the way it is being handled in Parliament," he said. "I think the effect will be a low turn-out. A big reduction in the Conservative vote is what we're picking up on the doorstep.

"The challenge for Labour is to persuade people that voting in the local elections will make a difference to their communities and their services.

"There is clear demand for buses in Hucknall because of the new housing. I am telling Jeremy that we need to improve services in the Hucknall West area. They have been promised a bus service and nothing has happened."

Labour's analysis of the Government's own data reveals that funding for local bus services has nearly been cut by half (44 per cent), and the East Midlands has been hit three times harder than the national average.

A local breakdown of the statistics shows that whilst Conservative-led Nottinghamshire have slashed their bus budget, Labour’s Nottingham City Council has increased funding for bus services:

Nottinghamshire: Between 2009/10 and 2017/18, spending on local bus services has been slashed by nearly 60 per cent, well over the regional average.

Nottingham: Between 2009/10 and 2017/18, spending nearly doubled from £940k to £1.7m.