The bus market outside London is deregulated, and it is for individual commercial bus operators to determine how best to invest in their businesses. The biggest operators have invested £1.3 billion in new vehicles outside London over the past five years.
Local authority funding for local bus services in Fareham and Gosport has been reduced by £1.5 million, leaving areas in my constituency such as Whiteley, Locks Heath and Warsash with virtually no bus service. I am concerned that private investment is not filling the gaps. What are central Government going to do to assist?
I note my hon. Friend’s concern, but I believe that decisions about funding to support local bus services are best made at local level. I would say, however, that the Government are continuing to make substantial funding available to bus operators and local authorities through the £250 million bus service operators grant. Additionally, I understand that FirstGroup has made significant investment in local buses in south Hampshire. All the buses in that area are fitted with free wi-fi, and most are fitted with next-stop displays and audio announcements. This is being delivered in partnership with Solent Transport and with Department for Transport funding, and therefore involves a mixture of public and private funding. I share with my hon. Friend a desire to see a strong bus sector.
Further copious detail, if required, could always be lodged in the Library of the House.
I do not want to criticise the Minister, but I will. When my constituents go around the country, they, like me, see buses belching filthy black smoke from their out-of-date diesel engines. Cummins in my constituency makes the most advanced turbo-chargers in the world. Why are we not investing in a new generation of buses and getting rid of those that are belching out fumes, killing and shortening the lives of our constituents?
Just as the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Mr Goodwill came into work on his bicycle this morning, I came in on a bus. It was a clean bus, and the Government are investing heavily in clean bus technology all over the country. I am not quite sure when Mr Sheerman was last on a bus, but if he looks around the country he will see an enormous range of clean buses right across the UK.
The Minister truly is a man of the people.