Bus Services

Transport – in the House of Commons at 9:36 am on 26 October 2023.

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Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West 9:36, 26 October 2023

What steps he is taking to support bus services.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Using the savings from HS2, we will extend the £2 bus fare right across England until the end of December 2024. This means that the Government have committed over £600 million to cap bus fares. We have also announced that the Government will continue to provide increased financial support to community transport operators, to help them protect key services by uplifting their bus service operator grant by 60%.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

I thank the Minister for that reply, and for his recent visit to Southend West. He is very aware that last year, elderly residents were left stranded, literally overnight, when First Bus withdrew the No. 21 service, cutting them off from Southend Hospital, from Leigh Broadway and from many community groups. Despite successfully working with First Bus to reroute the No. 3 bus, this is not good enough; it only runs once every two hours. Will he meet me and First Bus to make sure that Southend City gets the best bus services possible?

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I was delighted to visit my hon. Friend, and also my hon. Friend Sir James Duddridge. I would be very happy to meet her and representatives from First Bus. Her work to champion her constituents’ local transport needs is second to none. I was delighted to see that that additional piece of bus funding of almost £1 million from central Government to Southend to help protect and enhance local bus services is going through, but I will happily meet her to see how we can best ensure that it is spent in a way that protects her residents.

Photo of Sarah Edwards Sarah Edwards Labour, Tamworth

It is not possible for people in Tamworth to reach Burton hospital by bus if they need to do so. Will the Government commit to supporting Labour’s take back control Bill, which will devolve the running of bus services to local authorities, so that bus routes that communities need can be delivered by the people who know where they are needed most?

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place. This Government have put in unprecedented amounts of support for bus services, including £150 million for the midlands and the north in the past week alone. The Bus Services Act 2017, which we passed, allowed franchising to be expanded across the country. It is this Government who are delivering on that greater reach for local authorities, whether it is via franchising or enhanced partnerships. I urge her to speak to the county council in her region and try to get it to allocate some of that money to support local services. This Government are putting in the money, but it is up to the local authorities to deliver.

Photo of Simon Lightwood Simon Lightwood Shadow Minister (Transport)

On Monday, the Government pledged to deliver 25 million more bus miles, but what they failed to tell the public was that this was just a drop in the ocean, compared with the 175 million bus miles that they have slashed over the past five years. In fact, never before on record have bus routes fallen by as much as they have over the past year, and this from the same party that promised buses so frequent that we would not need a timetable. Does this not show that, while the Tories and their broken bus system remain in place, communities will continue to see this record-breaking decline in the bus services on which they depend?

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Member does not seem to recognise the facts of the situation. There have been huge amounts of extra cash going in, whether that is through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement that we are seeing right across the country—in some cases, that funding is being tripled for some local authorities—or the bus service improvement plan. On the statistics that those on the Labour Front Bench trot out, the one they seem to forget is that, in Wales, bus services have declined by more than twice as much in terms of mileage than the rest of the country, and it does not have the “Get Around for £2” fare scheme or any of the other support that the Government in England are putting into services, because it is making the wrong decisions.