Isn’t it time the North had a transport service fit for the 21st century?
With the recent withdrawal of the 519 service in Smithills, local buses have been high on the local agenda. They don’t, however, seem to be anything like a priority for national Government.
Losing the 519 bus service has effectively cut off a whole estate; made the journey into Bolton town centre more difficult for older people and people with limited mobility; and put more strain on already busy services like the 125 and 501.
If we look at the issue more broadly, there is now no longer a night bus between Bolton and Manchester – making it increasingly difficult for people to access cultural events and evening work.
The loss of these services has local implications and is part of a wider national picture. Across the country bus services are been cancelled or are under threat, cutting off whole communities from the public transport network.
The loss of one service like the 519 affects hundreds of people. Replicate this across the rest of the country and it is staggering that this issue is not higher up the political agenda.
Where bus services are still in place, ever-increasing fares are a barrier for many. How can it be right that a taxi into town is often cheaper than two people catching the 501 service, run by First?
Whilst improvements to the rail network are crucial, bus services are just as important to communities like ours in Smithills. Most public transport journeys take place on buses and a good bus network can be a lifeline for people accessing employment, services and shops.
We could have the best train service in the world running out of Bolton, but is makes little sense without a good bus network to back it up.
The problem lies in the fact that all bus services outside London are deregulated, allowing bus companies to pick and choose which services they provide and how much they charge. This needs to change.
Ryan Quick, Smithills Labour candidate said:
‘’The loss of bus services like the 519 are devastating for local communities. I will continue to make bus services a priority by campaigning to bring proper regulation into the bus network. This would ensure that bus operators can’t just walk away from routes like First did with the 519.
When I speak to people, they feel like they have no control over the bus services in their local community and they have no one they can hold accountable or lobby. They are completely at the mercy of bus companies’ profit margins.
We aren’t asking for anything radical, just what London takes for granted. If it’s good enough for them, why shouldn’t it be for us?’’