It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Austin.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend Caroline Flint on securing this important debate. I despair, however, at the necessity for it, because once again hon. Members find themselves discussing transport struggles. As usual, we see that smaller towns have been overlooked. In fact, two months ago to the day I stood here in Westminster Hall to relay the disgraceful experience of many people in Barnsley with our local rail services: prices are extortionate, delays regular and, when trains arrive, they are dilapidated, overcrowded and, frankly, better placed in a transport museum.
For many, the bus services around Barnsley are little better. Too often, they are run in the interests of profit, rather than as the essential public service that they provide. Many of my constituents in relatively rural towns are left isolated or out of pocket because of decisions made by the bus companies. Those companies pay no mind, for example, to my older constituent who, when his local service was changed, faced the prospect of spending a third of his weekly pension on a taxi to his local hospital appointments. They care little about my disabled constituent who, since the removal of her bus service, is forced to rely on the good will of neighbours to access the shops, library, post office or hairdresser. She is left, in her words,
“so isolated, lonely and fed up”.
That is simply not acceptable.
Bus services are the lifeblood of towns such as mine, but are too often run solely in the interests of profit. When unprofitable routes are cut, little mind is paid to the impact it has on the people who rely on them. Bus services should remain just that: a service.
Two months ago, the Minister admitted that
“it is fair to say that rail services across Yorkshire and the north as a whole have not been good enough.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 651, c. 313WH.]
The fact of the matter is that that is true for many transport services in towns throughout the country, in particular northern towns such as Barnsley. It is about time that the Government finally addressed that woeful imbalance, and ensured that the interests of the public are taken into consideration in town transport services.