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Government’s sham localism no answer to decline of buses outside London, warns Gordon

Gordon has warned that bus services outside of London won’t offer the same range and levels of service to passengers currently available in London unless the Government offers real devolution of powers to local communities and their councils.GM_standard_picture.jpg

His comments in his capacity as Labour's Shadow Bus Minister, come after he challenged Ministers in Transport Questions in the House of Commons this past Thursday 16th July about trends in bus use.

The latest quarterly bus statistics show that bus use is rising in London, where routes and fares are set by Transport for London, but have fallen by 11 million journeys in the rest of England where communities have little power over their services. Fares are also rising faster outside of London, with an average rise of 3.6% in the last year compared to 2.7% in London.

Gordon said: “I wanted the newly appointed Buses Minister Andrew Jones to recognise that these latest figures underline the facts that bus services outside London just aren’t working for people. Yet all he replied with was a statement saying he would leave it to the market, which directly contradicts the Government’s promise to give councils more power to regulate local services. He also failed to say why Government is withholding these powers from councils unless they have a mayor forced on them.

“The Government does need to devolve transport powers, but wherever in England there is the demand, it should be up to local communities and councils to decide how they exercise those powers themselves. Directly-elected mayors should not be forced on communities as part of the deal. It’s passengers who will lose out if the Government simply allows George Osborne to push his pet project.”

As reported in Monday’s Daily Mirror, 2,000 bus routes outside London have been cut since 2010, with a 23% reduction in the number of miles of local bus service in rural areas, while average fares have risen by 25%.

Gordon continued: “Throughout the last Parliament Labour said we wanted communities to have far more powers over their vital services. The commitments we offered on buses would help communities link up with jobs, with family, with social life. The ability to set routes and fares, with a joined-up network and investment going back into local services, should do that.”

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