Bus services under threat – Socialist Party
Fight for free, green and public transport
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Adam Goulcher, Gloucestershire Socialist Party
Almost one in five households does not have access to a car. For those in the bottom 20% of households by income, the figure is one in three.
The bus is literally a lifeline for many households, providing the only means of access to health services, education, work and commerce. A study by transport union RMT found that six million people do not live within one kilometer of an hourly bus service.
The pandemic led to a catastrophic reduction in bus ticket revenue and the government was forced to bail out operators. With passenger levels still only 70% of pre-pandemic figures, subsidies ending in March and further cuts to local authorities, this will inevitably mean cuts to services.
A third of bus services are threatened, according to the representative body of operators. So much for the government’s ‘race to the top’ and ‘best bus ride’. The £3billion pledged for buses in March 2021 has already been reduced to £1.4billion. The Council’s bids for this funding currently stand at £9 billion.
Bus services outside London were privatized and deregulated by Thatcher in 1986. Following the ridiculous, dangerous and polluting spectacle of the ‘bus wars’ – where private operators raced to conquer an unregulated market, 70% of services were operated by the five major operators.
Consequently, local monopolies dominate, leading to high fares and poor service. Fares have doubled in real terms since 1987 and bus journeys outside London have halved from four billion to two billion a year.
For-profit operators are subsidized by councils to provide service on unprofitable routes. This represents about 40% of their income. Since the crash of 2008, council spending on these services has fallen by 45% in real terms, devastating the lives of millions of people losing access to vital services.
Each service cut represents a real ordeal for the millions of people who depend on buses for their daily lives. Nearly 40 years after deregulation, we see a handful of monopolies sharing the spoils of profitable city services and scrounging up subsidies for “sustained” services, replacing the old system of cross-subsidies that provided superior coverage and frequency.
Yet another example of rotten privatization transferring wealth from the poorest in society to corporations and their shareholders. We demand a free, integrated, green, state-owned and operated, democratically managed transportation system. This would provide the backbone of an efficient needs-based socialist economy.
Transportation costs pile up in cost of living squeeze
Sare O’Neil, South East London Socialist Party
The cost of living crisis affects every aspect of working class life – from fuel and food to wages, rent and travel expenses.
Petrol and diesel prices have hit an all-time high and Transport for London, under Labor mayor Sadiq Khan, is set to raise fares by 5%.
When travel prices increase, but wages do not, workers’ wages are indirectly reduced. We leave for work, and come back with less in our pockets than the previous week. Unable to afford to live close to work, many of us are forced to make long and expensive commutes.
“I understand the pressures people face with the cost of living,” said Rishi Sunak, the wealthiest person in the House of Commons. How could such an individual sympathize with the struggles of workers? With MPs’ base pay rising to £81,932 over the past few years (minus spending and lobbying, of course), it has become a position far removed from the people it is meant to serve.
That’s why Dave Nellist’s pledge to only get a working salary if elected for the Labor and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the Erdington by-election (see page 3) is so important . MPs’ salaries and lifestyles mean they can make cuts and prop up profiteering oil companies, without ever feeling the sting.
Every year we are told to keep hoping that the next one will be better. But even when the economy grows, by 7.5% in 2021, the working class is even worse off – “neither median nor household living standards have risen at all”, according to the Financial Times.
The workers fight back
Public transport workers show how to fight. With winning strikes, bus pay rises and RMT tube strikes underway.
Strikes to defend services and for wage increases are necessary, but the cost of living crisis also shows the need for a new mass party of the working class, supported by the unions, which fights for the renationalisation of the roads railways and public transport, the oil companies and the polluting oil companies.
Free and efficient public transport, as well as social housing close to workplaces, are also essential. That way, workers could get to work without seeing a big drop in our paychecks.
The council must use its powers to save Liverpool’s 86 night bus
Alex Smith, Liverpool Socialist Party
The 86-night Stagecoach bus from Liverpool city center to Speke via the Smithdown area – popular with students looking to get home safely and relatively cheaply – has been cut. A petition now has more than 10,000 signatures calling for the service to be restored immediately, particularly in the context of incidents and sexual assaults against female students in Liverpool city centre.
Unfortunately, Labor politicians in the city and elsewhere are refusing to act. Yet Liverpool City Council has ‘usable reserves’ of more than £50m which could be used to immediately reinstate night busing and halt wider council cuts and council tax increases for at least a year. year. The time saved could be used by Liverpool advisers to wage a campaign against the central government, demanding that reserves devoted to defending Liverpool’s working class be replenished.
It is against this backdrop that Liverpool Student Socialists are pushing, through the Liverpool Trade Union Council (LTUC), for the reinstatement of the night bus service as the first step in a wider campaign for all buses be renationalized under the democratic control and management of the workers. .
The LTUC is currently writing to local politicians demanding that they meet with a delegation from the LTUC and socialist students to discuss the reintroduction of the night bus.
Socialist students are also approaching union branches at city bus depots, along with LTUC, to ask for campaign support. UCU branches at Liverpool universities and colleges will also be approached, as will other union branches, community organizations and left-wing councilors in the city (a number of whom have now been suspended or expelled from Labour).
Liverpool Student Socialists understand there is an alternative to the cuts. When the LTUC drew up a costed budget proposal without cuts last year – drafted by supporters of the unions and the socialist coalition – six Liverpool Labor councilors picked it up and wrote to the city’s acting mayor, Wendy Simon, describing the LTUC proposal as a “workable strategy”.
So this “workable strategy” should be adopted now. Liverpool advisers should fight the cuts instead of doing the Tories’ dirty work. Help increase the safety of students and young people by restoring the night bus. And also fight other cuts. No more excuses.