The Guardian view on public transport: end austerity, trust the state | Editorial
A council bankruptcy exposes how the Treasury hijacked devolution as a way of palming off responsibility to local councils for making cuts, while keeping the power to make policy. That has to change
Northamptonshire county council’s bankruptcy was made in Downing Street. Up and down the country there are increasing numbers of local examples of the ruinous effects of austerity. Each is unhappy in its own way but, when aggregated together, they reveal how an entire social infrastructure is being shredded. In the case of Northamptonshire, the most eye-catching measure is that all bus subsidies will be cut on Wednesday. This does not mean buses will stop running across 900 square miles in the east Midlands, but it will almost certainly see many socially needed routes scrapped. Bus services paid for by councils in England and Wales are mostly used by older people, schoolchildren, and the less well-off. It is these groups that will end up marooned and isolated, with few other options for getting around.
Northamptonshire is just the tip of the iceberg: cuts to public funding have helped shrink Britain’s bus network to levels last seen in the late 1980s. The National Audit Office estimated that bus budgets have been slashed by 40% since 2010. Routes have been either scrapped or shortened and timetables have been reduced. At the same time bus fares have gone up. The austerity of David Cameron and Theresa May has meant bus services faced death by a thousand cuts. Unlike the railways, buses are fading silently. Despite more journeys being made on buses than trains outside of London, they rarely appear on Westminster’s radar. Rail commuters are voters who politicians understand: largely middle class and found in marginal constituencies. Bus users are numerous, but constitute a less politically noisy base.
Source: Guardian Transport