Green councillors in Exeter and East Devon want buses to come under the control of the local councils.
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It would be similar to the system that operated until privatisation of bus services in 1986 before which local authorities decided which routes should run and what fares should be.
The two Greens on the city council are to meet Stagecoach Southwest’s managing director Mike Watson this week to discuss what they call “the crisis facing bus services.”
Stagecoach may not necessarily disagree that the service is facing difficulties. In January, Mr Watson to a meeting of the Exeter highways and traffic orders committee (HATOC), that inflation, pay rises, grants being cut, and the number of people using buses being down 30 per cent on pre-pandemic level, are causing pressures.
As a result, service levels “will almost certainly reduce,” he said, but they would try to avoid withdrawing entire routes and that any reductions are done “sensitively” in consultation with the county council.
The Greens think that Stagecoach’s decision are driven by profit and that councillors would be better running the service.
Councillor Amy Sparling said: “Buses are now scheduled to run every half hour but even at this massively reduced frequency often don’t turn up and the app isn’t reliable.
“So many people rely on bus services to get to work, shops, hospitals, business parks, schools and colleges. Severe service cuts impact particularly on the old and the young and those who cannot or choose not to own cars.”
“Greens are calling for a London-style system where fares, ticketing, routes and timetables are managed by local authorities instead of private operators.”
Green councillor, Diana Moore said: “Private bus operators are driven by profit. This has put the interests of shareholders above passengers and resulted in poor pay and working conditions for drivers and an emphasis on the most profitable routes.”
“As Greens we want to see local authorities have the power to ensure bus services reflect all the principles of a public service, including setting routes, frequencies and fares and tickets that work across all buses and trains.
Green councillor in East Devon, Henry Gent, added: “In East Devon many have been left stranded. We must see sufficient levels of investment to end transport poverty and ensure estates and villages have at least an hourly bus service that will increase social mobility and equality.”
Stagecoach had been planning a merger with coach operator National Express, but that deal was being looked at by the Competition and Mergers Authority. Now German firm DWS Infrastructure is expected to buy Stagecoach.