Greens from across the West of England area are calling for the WECA Mayor to take control of our bus services.

In an open letter signed by Green councillors from Bristol, B&NES and North Somerset, the Green Party are calling for Dan Norris, WECA Mayor, to take greater control of our bus services and provide more funding. 

Following the cancellation of dozens of services when Bristol Community Transport ceased operations last week, and the announcement of further cuts to many supported services in October, Greens from across the region are calling for action to improve our abysmal bus services. During a cost-of-living crisis and a climate emergency, reliable, fast, cheap and green transport options should be a top priority for the regional authority, the Metro Mayor, and local councils.  

Bristol Green Councillor Emma Edwards, co shadow cabinet member for transport, says “Bus services are a lifeline for many people and their main way of traveling around the city. Protecting vital bus services should be a priority for Bristol City Council and WECA. We need to encourage people to drive less in order to clean up Bristol’s air and reduce traffic, and we can only do that by investing in our bus services, and working towards bringing them into franchise.”

Bristol Green Councillor David Wilcox, co shadow cabinet member for transport says “This region has been left behind for a last a decade, because of the lack of Public Transport provision, now is the time to move to a different model of financing and providing services for the residents of WECA to provide the most useful – not the most profitable service.”

B&NES Green Councillor Joanna Wright states “Residents in Bath and North East Somerset are genuinely fearful that local bus services will be lost, meaning that access to shops, doctors and important local facilities will leave many across the region isolated.  Currently many young people in B&NES are forced to catch several buses just to get to school and back. They cannot buy and use just one affordable ticket; having to pay multiple fares as each bus company uses different ticket systems. This often results in young people getting parents to drive them to school. This does not benefit local communities or WECA’s commitment to Net Zero. Residents have made it clear that they want and need a local bus service that works at a community level and connects with the wider region and the WECA Mayor should franchise the bus service.”

 Notes:

Explains Precept powers: https://www.local.gov.uk/publications/combined-authorities-financial-freedoms-and-devolution

OPEN LETTER

Dear Mr Norris, Metro Mayor for the West of England,
Greens across the West of England area are calling on you to deliver a bus service that provides for all residents in B&NES, Bristol, South Glos and North Somerset.
Following the “Big Choices on Buses”, the Green Party believes that the only way to deliver a bus service that is reliable and affordable is for the Regional Authority to take greater control of our bus services and provide more funding.
We call on you to deliver franchised bus service across the West of England area and raise a bus precept so that all residents and visitors can use buses easily and inexpensively.
Following the cancellation of dozens of services when Bristol Community Transport ceased operations last week, and the announcement of further cuts to many supported services in October, Greens from across the region are calling for action to improve our abysmal bus services. During a cost-of-living crisis and a climate emergency, reliable, fast, cheap and green transport options should be a top priority for the regional authority, the Metro Mayor, and local councils.
The success of our buses relies not only on the services but the infrastructure around our buses. The regional authority having more control over our buses by franchising the service would link investment in buses and investment in the infrastructure required to ensure our buses run on time and to protect vital bus routes. Precepting powers, the ability to raise an extra tax to pay for buses, would give the regional authority increased funding to support our bus services to benefit our local communities. Greater Manchester spends £67 per person per year on supporting bus services, West of England only £20, indicating we need greater investment in our region’s bus network.
The 2021 Green Party manifesto for WECA and Bristol mayor states that ‘the Green Party supports public ownership’, but since the current Government has banned this, we believe franchising is the next best thing.
We understand that franchising and precept powers take time. In the meantime, we would like the West of England Authority to focus on solving the issue of driver recruitment, to increase the transparency of decisions around supported bus services, and to do more to encourage bus use to ensure services are viable.

  • A shortage of bus drivers is one of the reasons for cuts to services, WECA needs to work with bus drivers, unions and FirstBus to solve this issue, and use the skills budget to train enough local drivers.
  • WECA supports (pays for) some bus routes, but local residents and Councillors alike are not involved in decisions to prioritise specific routes, and there is little clarity on how these decisions are made. We request that the reasons for these prioritisations are shared to residents can feed in in a constructive way.
  • Bus usage is down since pre-pandemic levels; we call on WECA to do more to encourage bus use, which ultimately will have a significant impact on the region’s carbon emissions and wellbeing.
  • Implement the lowering of bus fares as soon as possible, as has been done in other regions, and before the government mandated lower fares come into effect.
    Yours sincerely,
    Councillors Emma Edwards and David Wilcox on behalf of Bristol Greens, Councillor Joanna Wright, B&NES Greens, Councillor Bridget Petty on behalf of North Somerset Greens.

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