The government’s new bus strategy for England, announced on 15 March, has been met with a lukewarm response, to say the least.
Unite the Union, representing over 70,000 bus workers, pointed out that the new bus strategy will not reverse more than a decade of service cuts that have left many communities isolated.
The union did welcome the implicit admission that deregulation introduced in 1986, which allowed the market to dictate bus routes outside London, has been a failure. It also welcomed proposals to allow local authorities to introduce franchising similar to those arrangements in place in London, or enter into enhanced partnerships with operators which will help to stop cut-throat competition on profitable routes.
But the franchising proposal was immediately undermined by bus giant Stagecoach, which has just launched legal action against the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It is seeking a judicial review of the plans.
Unite is unhappy that the strategy fails to introduce minimum standards for bus drivers’ pay and conditions and ignores the growing crisis of fatigue, which results in accidents and leads to long-term health problems for drivers.
• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk