Co-leader of the Green Party, Carla Denyer, has criticised Labour’s response to sweeping cuts to bus services across Bristol due to a driver shortage. Denyer, who is also the Greens’ MP candidate for Bristol West and a Councillor in Clifton Down ward, says the response of some Labour politicians, including Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, has been one of “hand wringing and inaction.”
Denyer, who first called for the West of England Combined Authority to investigate bus franchising in 2019, has repeated those calls this week in light of the announcement that First bus is cancelling 1,450 buses per week. An open letter calling on WECA to franchise buses currently has over 1400 signatories – you can sign here.
Franchising would offer a way for the West of England Combined Authority, run by Labour’s Dan Norris, to take public control of bus routes, frequencies and fares through a model similar to London and recently adopted in Manchester.
Carla Denyer said:
“Bristol has four Labour MPs, a Labour-run council, a Labour City Mayor and a Labour regional mayor who have ultimate responsibility for our public transport, and so far Labour’s response to thousands of bus journeys being cut appears to be hand wringing and inaction,”
“The timing could hardly be worse; They knew the Clean Air Zone began this week and all of our representatives should have been planning for every eventuality. Instead, they’ve been passing the buck back and forth.
“Green Councillors in Bristol and Bath have been lobbying the West of England Mayor for years about cuts to bus services. We are clear that public buses should be under public control – run in the public interest, not for the benefit of shareholders.
“It seems Labour’s local MPs and Mayors all have different ideas about whose fault problems with bus services are and how to fix them. Is it too much to ask that politicians from the same party could work together to deliver a decent bus service for Bristol and the region?
“Placing buses under greater public control will end the blame game and buck-passing between Labour’s politicians and private companies by giving the Metro Mayor a clear responsibility to deliver and improve services.
“It’s too late for MPs to write letters to First Bus demanding answers now. It’s not as if bus driver shortages started last week. This has been a nationwide problem since Brexit and the Covid pandemic.”
Denyer’s criticism comes after First Bus announced an eye-wateringly long list of cuts to bus services which now won’t run until at least April 2023. This includes cuts to the 1, 2, 3 and 8 bus routes, which all run through the heart of the Bristol West constituency, where Denyer is the main challenger to win the seat from Labour at the next General Election.
Image credit: Jon Craig