The Green Party has called for the introduction of a £1 single fare as routes across the country face more cuts.
On the 17 of February, the party launched the ‘One Pound Fare To Take You There’ campaign under the plan that passengers under 21 would travel for free and existing free travel schemes would be protected for over 60’s.
Co-leader Adrian Ramsey explains, “Subsidising public transport can result in savings elsewhere, cutting the costs of congestion, reducing health costs associated with air pollution and tackling carbon emissions and the substantial costs incurred from the climate crisis”.
Calls for a dramatic cut in bus fares surfaced after the government announced that the £2 cap introduced nationally in January and due to conclude in March will be extended for another three months. This will cost £75mn, with £80mn to be spent on ensuring companies continue to operate routes that might otherwise be threatened with closure.
Transport secretary Mark Harper told the Guardian that the UK’s bus network was “still trying to recover after the end of the pandemic”.
Also speaking to the Guardian was Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus. Smith said the extension was “very good news”, with a survey cited in the paper stating that 7% of the 1,000 people questioned had used busses more as a result.
Since the lifting of Covid restrictions, transport usage has increased with car use back to 90% of pre covid levels. Other forms of transport have seen lower rises, with rail outside London being back to 73% and busses back to 81%.
Bus service across the UK has been in decline for almost a decade, with the national network shrinking by 14% between 2016 and 2022, according to Department of Transport figures.
Some cities, including Stoke-on-Trent, have seen a particularly sharp decline in services. In the five years to 2022, the city’s bus services shrank by 37%, adding to its existing economic and social inequalities.
The Green Party are calling for fresh and substantial investment in bus services, paid for by scrapping the £27bn road building programme and allocating part of their proposed carbon tax to fund the £1 fare and free travel for under 21’s. They also want to re-regulate services with all regions operating a franchise system where local authorities determine routes and frequencies, as is the case in London and Manchester.
Adrian Ramsey said there was a “need for our buses to work for people, not the profit of private bus companies. This is why Greens want to see greater powers for local councils, to set routes and frequencies rather than let private companies cherry-pick profitable routes and leave passengers out in the cold communities completely cut off”.
The Greens cite examples from Germany, Luxembourg, and the French city of Dunkirk of how subsidised bus services can be made to work. They also cite the Herefordshire council who have introduced free weekend busses using covid recovery funding.
Ellie Chowns, a Green Party councillor in the county and Cabinet Member for Environment and Economy, stated “Low cost, or even free buses, is not pie in the sky. Here in Herefordshire, we had a hugely successful trial of free weekend buses using Covid recovery funds”.
Chowns adds that “Low cost or free public transport is all about political choices. We can pay for high quality public transport by scrapping the damaging road building programme and diverting this money to public transport and allocating a proportion of our proposed carbon tax policy into funding the One Pound Fare to Take You There scheme.”