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Column: Fix our broken public transport system

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Under the Conservatives, our transport system has been brought to its knees. I am inundated with emails and letters every week from constituents who have been short-changed by our poor bus and train network.

Since 2011, bus passengers have suffered with the Conservatives cutting half of bus routes in England. In their National Bus Strategy in 2021 they promised to “not only halt the decline, but reverse it”. Yet 2,000 routes have been cut nationally in the last year alone, showing that they are all talk.

In Wakefield, those bus services which are left are frequently delayed, cancelled or fail to turn up at all.

In West Yorkshire, we are fortunate to have a Labour Mayor who is forcing change to our broken bus system. She has introduced the Mayor’s Fares scheme, capping single fares at £2. More money has been invested in sustaining routes, keeping communities connected and she is exploring franchising for the region’s bus services, inspiring the reform we so desperately need.

Almost nowhere else in the developed world does a country give so much power to private bus operators. As a Shadow Transport Minister, I look forward to working in a Labour government to make it easier for communities like Wakefield to take control of their bus network, deciding the fares and routes they need.

Unfortunately, it is not just our buses which have been decimated by successive Tory failures. Over the past 13 years, the Conservatives have presided over the managed decline of our railways.

They promised to power up the North, yet have scrapped the Eastern leg of HS2 up to Leeds, and significantly scaled back plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Government are consistently leaving behind Northern communities like Wakefield.

We know the current model of rail ownership doesn’t work. Under the Conservatives, we have seen four rail companies nationalised due to the dire standard of service provided by the private operators. Those routes left in private hands still see an unacceptable level of service with record high numbers of cancellations.

As Wakefield’s MP, I have recently written to Grand Central, who run services between Kirkgate and London, to ask what measures they are taking to improve their service after repeated cancellations this summer.

While our railways are in desperate need of reform, the Government’s response has been to bury their heads in the sand. Instead, they are pledging to scrap some of the few basic services left for passengers such as train wi-fi and ticket offices like Wakefield Westgate.

In contrast, Labour has a proper plan to fix our railways, starting with bringing all routes back into public ownership when the current contracts expire.

Over the last decade, rail companies have put shareholders first and passengers last, leaving communities like Wakefield without dependable railways to rely on.

It is clear that our bus and rail networks have suffered through 13 years of Conservative failure. A Labour government will prioritise passengers’ needs and create a public transport system that works for communities like Wakefield and is truly fit for the future.



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