Dearne MP’s ‘Passenger Power’ plan sparks row

Michael Dugher MP
Michael Dugher MP

Plans by a Dearne MP to reorganise the way bus services are run has sparked protests from transport bosses.

Michael Dugher, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for transport, unveiled the ‘Passenger Power’ scheme, which he said will give local communities greater control over bus services.

The Wombwell and Darfield MP said the new approach aims to decentralise the running of services and give passengers more of a voice in deciding what routes should be retained and introduced.

Labour said there is need for change and claimed there is evidence to show services have been widely cut across the region. But the move has sparked fury from bus operators First Group and Stagecoach.

Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First Group Scotland and North England, said: “Mr Dugher’s comments don’t reflect the reality of progress in Yorkshire where fare-paying bus passengers in South Yorkshire have grown by nearly 10 per cent since 2012. This is not unique to South Yorkshire with passenger numbers on First buses in West Yorkshire growing by over nine per cent in the last two years. Working together in partnership is the answer to further improvement in bus services - not more regulation and control.”

A spokeswoman for bus operator Stagecoach said Mr Dugher was “out of touch” with the real situation and added: “He is trying to blame bus companies for bus cuts that have actually been made by cash-strapped local authorities.

“Labour’s proposals for bus franchising are economic fantasy.”

Mr Dugher said new figures show that compared to 2010, there were 1 million less miles of local bus services in Yorkshire and Humber last year. He added fares have also gone up by 25 per cent since 2010. Labour would introduce a system which would give the public more power to determine routes, set fares and integrate bus services with other forms of public transport.

Mr Dugher said: “Whilst the bus companies are coining it in, local bus routes are being slashed and this Government says everything is fine.”