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  1. Politics
4 July 2018

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn was right to raise the neglected issue of bus service cuts

Though the public, particularly the poor, rely on buses far more than trains, the subject rarely receives political attention. 

By George Eaton

You wait for one question on bus services and six turn up at once. To the surprise of almost all watching, Jeremy Corbyn led on this issue at today’s PMQs. 

In doing so, he addressed a genuine electoral concern. Though MPs traditionally focus on the railways, the public disproportionately rely on buses (with 4.4 billion journeys a year compared to 1.7 billion for trains). This is particularly true of the poor, the elderly, the young and rural residents. 

But as Corbyn noted, the service is yet another that has withered since 2010. Bus fares have risen by 13 per cent in real-terms, while public funding has been cut by 46 per cent (with an average of 480 routes a year cut). Deregulation, Corbyn added, had led to private bus monopolies reaping of profit of £3.3bn since 2010. “That’s what the Tories give you in public transport.”

Theresa May, who was evidently surprised to be asked about buses, insisted that the issue was a matter for local authorities (though their state funding has been reduced by 49 per cent since 2010). “It’s a shame this government is so shy of giving powers to local authorities and instead is more interested in cutting their resources,” Corbyn replied, demanding an end to cuts and the reregulation of all services (he also highlighted Labour’s electorally canny offer of free bus travel for under-25s).

Many commentators assailed the Labour leader for not challenging May on Brexit (ahead of this Friday’s Chequers summit) or the revelation that Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey misled parliament over Universal Credit. But when other MPs raised these issues, May simply replied that McVey would “correct the record” after PMQs (rather than resigning) and insisted that the government would maintain its Brexit pledges (to leave the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice).

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Corbyn, perhaps, could have put May under greater pressure. But in raising the neglected issue of bus services, he gave commuters the representation they deserve.

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