The need to reform Britain’s public transport system, which has suffered years of worker cut backs, route cancellations and prices rises under privatisation, was a hot topic at the Labour conference in Brighton this week.
Here Unite delegate and bus driver Simon Rosenthal explains why the UK’s bus services need to be nationalised:
Public transport is not some added luxury – but an essential right. I’ve been a bus driver for 34 years and seen a lot of changes in that time. When I started I was part of National Bus, proud to be a public servant working for a nationalised company, in effect working for the government. The test I passed was for a PSV licence, this stood for public service vehicle.
In the depot I worked at there were more than 60 routes to learn, many of them rural services serving the villages and communities of Leicestershire and beyond. Then, within a year of me starting, along came deregulation.
This was going to offer passengers a greater choice, they would be able to choose which companies’ bus they caught as increased competition drove down fares and opened up innovative new routes – well, the only thing driven down was bus workers terms and conditions as fares spiralled and rural and non profitable routes were cut.
My PSV became a PCV, so my public service vehicle licence is now a passenger carrying vehicle licence. On a brighter note I do find myself once again working for the government – it’s just not our government.
Public transport should mean public transport. We can give passengers a comprehensive, affordable, regulated network if we take buses back into public ownership, reinvesting the profits into a sustainable transport infrastructure for the benefit of all.
Or we can carry on operating on the basis of profit and ignore the needs of those living in rural areas and the most vulnerable. A system that sees profits siphoned off for the benefits of shareholders while fares increase and bus workers’ terms and conditions decline.
It’s time for a radical rethink. Unite welcome’s Labour’s commitment to repealing Clause 21 of the Bus Services Act and free every council to run its own services. Deregulation and privatisation hasn’t worked for buses. It’s time to take buses back into public ownership and run them once again as a public service for the benefit of the passengers and our communities.