At a Bristol Council meeting yesterday (13 December), a motion calling for support for bus franchising was passed, calling on the West of England authority (WECA) to take the first steps towards it by launching a feasibility study.
Bristol’s Green Councillors supported the motion proposed by the Lib Dems, and described the UK’s deregulated bus market as “an experiment that has failed”. Greens have long been calling for bus franchising in the West of England and are supporting a petition calling on WECA to work on franchising which currently has 1600 signatures.
The Greens also supported an amendment from the Labour group which added support for full public bus ownership, something which has long been Green Policy. The amendment called on the government to abolish a 2017 law that banned council-owned bus companies.
Bus franchising is currently used in Manchester and London. It replaces local deregulated bus markets or ‘partnerships’ with a model where the transport authority – in this case WECA – contracts services to bus companies, with the public authority determining the routes, fares and timetables.
Speaking to support the amendment, Clifton Down Councillor and Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said:
“The Green Party is clear that public transport should be under public control – run in the public interest, not for the benefit of shareholders. Green Councillors in Bristol and Bath have been lobbying the West of England Mayor for years about cuts to bus services and a call to consider franchising.
“Franchising is not perfect but it is, I believe, the best tool currently available to local authorities to exert some much-needed control over the quality of our local bus services.”
Windmill Hill Green Councillor Ed Plowden spoke in support of the motion overall. He said:
“Bus patronage in the last 25 years (pre pandemic) in London grew by 97%. In cities outside the capital, we saw a 34% decline. Britain is the only country in Europe that has trusted its bus system to the free market, and this experiment has failed.
“Re-establishing public control over our buses is just a first step towards the clear transport vision this region – and Bristol – desperately needs. One run for the benefit of, and accountable to, the public, embedded into wider City policy and budgets. We can have a progressive and Strategic City Transport system. Let’s start the work now.”
The motion passed with support from all parties other than the Conservatives, who voted against.