I recently took part in a very useful meeting with staff from the County Council’s Sustainable Transport team, organised by our Labour Thorpe Hamlet activist, Jane Overhill.
After speaking to residents in the Ladies Road area of Thorpe Hamlet, Jane became aware that like many parts of our City and County – routes that were not ‘commercially viable’, meaning privatised bus company parlance for ‘they don’t make sufficient profit to justify a service’, received either an infrequent bus service or in some cases no service at all. Residents in the Ladies Roads complained they received just one bus each way per day into the City Centre. Completely inadequate, especially for older residents or those with mobility issues.
At present the County Council has an approximate budget of £3million to fill in commercial ‘gaps’ for the entire County – a significant portion of which is rural. Given the scale of need, the challenge of getting people out of cars and onto public transport (thus cutting carbon and air-pollution) £3 million is a pittance which shows not just the depth of this government’s cuts to local authorities but also the lip service being paid to genuine transport decarbonisation and local investment.
How are people supposed to switch from car use to public transport when our services are so infrequent for large parts of the City and County?
It’s part of a National picture where since 2012 (when Tory austerity kicked in) thousands of services have been lost – with more than 1,000 scrapped in the last year alone. Each one of these represents more people cut off from their loved ones, from the ability to get a better job or further their education. Lost connections like these also hold back our economy, worsen our community life, and reduce people’s sense of connectivity and well-being.
I’m pleased to say the National Labour Party has committed to investing in our bus services. They’ve recognised this isn’t just essential to decarbonisation and paying our part in tackling the climate crisis. It’s also about prioritising public expenditure on those most in need. Bus services are disproportionately used by those on lower incomes and as such one of those worst hit by this Government’s programme of austerity. Making buses the first choice of the majority should be a key goal of the next Labour Government.
Back here in Norwich, Jane’s meeting with the County Council secured some important concessions, detailed below. Once again demonstrating the difference having a Labour councillor would make to the residents of Thorpe Hamlet.
- They are going to look at how much it will cost to double the current service in the area.
- They are going to review the bus stops to ensure they are visible and that they have timetables.
- They are going to provide Jane with timetables so that she can deliver these to every house in the area.
- For disabled people and those who are unable to get out of their houses easily they have highlighted Norwich Door to Door service which can be found here and Norfolk County Council’s Transport Plus system which can be found here.