Bus Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 16th July 2015.

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Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham 11:30 am, 16th July 2015

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of private investment in the bus industry.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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.

Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham

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?

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

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 When my constituents go around the country, they, like me, see buses belching filthy black smoke from their out-of-date diesel engines.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?

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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.