Livewire - September 12, 2012

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By Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys

Buses can be very frustrating, both for passengers and MPs.

Every few months I get a press release stating that one route or another is to stop, change direction, or terminate somewhere else.

The moment I read it, I know the chaos and frustration that will erupt for bus users.

At a time when financial subsidies for bus services are being cut – although the concessionary travel for pensioners is being maintained – this means change for many people.

As a member of the Transport Select Committee, I have participated in two inquiries into the local provision of bus services.

I know the good work Bus Users UK do, and have seen how successful their ‘bus surgery’ model has been at helping local passengers have a strong voice in how services develop.

I have also liaised with Bus Users UK to hold bus surgeries here on the Fylde.

On October 5, Blackpool Transport has loaned a bus and a few staff to come along to answer questions from 9.30am-12.30pm at St John’s Square, Blackpool, and from 1pm-3.30pm on Victoria Road West in Cleveleys, outside Tesco.

Blackpool Transport isn’t the only bus providers on the Fylde, so I have invited representatives from Stagecoach along. I will be there too, listening and taking up common themes.

A substantial part of my postbag concerns the buses, and many a public meeting in the constituency ends with a debate about buses too.

I realise how much they matter. In some of the best examples I have seen, bus companies collaborate with passengers to design networks that work for everyone.

I know we have an excellent Bus Users Panel in Blackpool, but believe we should go one step further and give passenger representatives the right to sit on the Board of Blackpool Transport themselves, and help take decisions.

The best bus networks are where issues of control are put aside, and companies collaborate to expand the number of passengers overall.

If we expect local government to continue subsidising local buses, if we truly believe buses have a ‘social purpose’, we need to be clear whose benefit it is for.

No use arguing those in low-paid jobs need buses to get them to work, if the buses don’t go where the jobs are.