The unreliability of bus services was bought home to Jeremy Corbyn recently. He needed to get to a meeting about bus services, but when the bus he was waiting for did not show up, he had to get a lift to ensure he got there on time. As he said in his video posted on Twitter ‘This was all very well for me but what if you were relying on that bus to get to work on time?’
High public transport fares and unreliable services together with unpopular changes to some local bus routes leave many preferring to drive. We must not forget, however, that driving is a privilege denied to many for financial or medical reasons.
Cars are often advertised as status symbols, while public transport use is thought of as second-best, with the belief that ‘anyone using a bus to get to work after the age of 26 is a failure’ (a quote wrongly attributed to Margaret Thatcher). Margaret Thatcher was, however, responsible for the deregulation of bus services in the 80s, which was the source of many of today’s problems.
Pricing drivers out of town by high parking charges is not the answer. Instead, an integrated transport policy, offering reasonable fares, good routes and safe, reliable buses and trains would encourage people to choose the public transport as their first choice and only use cars if necessary. Good car parking facilities such as Park and Ride schemes should be explored and have worked well in Canterbury. Rail fares in the south east are the highest in Europe and there is confusion over the complex pricing system too. The whole area of transport needs investment and integration, not least because of environmental need – an excellent reason in itself.