top of page

Manifesto's 2024

Somerset Bus Partnership has produced a Manifesto that we would like all political parties to follow. Read our manifesto .

A Personal Take On What The Party Manifestos Are Saying About Our Buses.
Peter Travis, Co Chair of Somerset Bus Partnership


There are 44 candidates seeking election to become an MP for one of 7 seats within the Somerset Council area.

Each of the 7 seats is being contested by all the major parties: Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green and, since the return of Nigel Farage, we now need to include the Reform Party in that list too.
 

Additionally, there are Independents standing in 4 of the seats: ‘Bridgwater,’ ‘Frome and East Somerset’, ‘Wells and Mendip Hills’ and in ‘Yeovil’. The Communist Party of Great Britian is contesting ‘Taunton & Wellington’ and the Workers’ Party is standing in ‘Bridgwater’.

But in my review of what the various parties are saying in their manifestos about buses, I am concentrating on the Conservatives, Labour, the LibDems, the Greens & Reform.

I have to be honest and acknowledge there are more important issues in this General Election than ‘buses’. In some of the manifestos, not much is being said about buses. But, as I’ve been told by candidates from nearly all the parties, buses here in Somerset is an important issue often raised on the doorstep when talking with voters.
 

LABOUR

As Labour seems to be heading towards a comfortable victory nationally on July 4th, let’s start with them. Whilst we might have had high expectations of Sir Keir on buses, their Manifesto is a bit of a disappointment about buses, it says very little and promises even less. In fact, across the range of policies (and not just on buses) the Labour manifesto is cautious despite ‘change’ being the watchword of Labour’s campaign.

The leading coach & bus magazine, Route One magazine commented:

“The Labour manifesto is thin on detailed transport policy and promises. It gives no detail of deeper bus policy in England beyond what has already been revealed. That centres on increased franchising powers and scope for more municipal operators.

 

The party again describes the current bus landscape as “broken” and says that under Conservative governments, “transport services have remained fragmented and inefficient with companies and sectors failing to speak to and plan with each other.”

 

Franchising is at the heart of Labour’s strategy for buses but one must wonder where the money will come from to fund it.

Worryingly, unlike both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Labour makes no commitment to continue the £2 bus fare cap in England in its manifesto.

To add more substance to Labour’s policies on buses, it is necessary to see what their Shadow Transport Minister, Louise Haigh MP, promised earlier this year:

Labour Government will pass new legislation to support local transport authorities to take back control of their bus services and has set out a five-point plan to deliver better buses.

 

“Labour will:

 

1.     Empower local transport authorities and reform funding: by giving local leaders more control and flexibility over bus funding and allowing them to plan ahead to deliver their local transport priorities.

 

2.     Allow every community to take back control of their buses: by removing barriers that currently limit bus franchising powers only to metro mayors.

 

3.     Accelerate the bus franchising process: by supporting local leaders to deliver better buses, faster.

 

4.     Step in to safeguard local bus networks: by providing more accountability over bus operators and ensuring standards are raised wherever you live across the country.

 

5.     Support public ownership: by removing the Conservatives’ ideological ban on publicly owned bus companies and building on the success of award-winning public bus services still in operation.”
 

So, would a Labour Government mean bus franchising comes here to Somerset?

We must wait and see. But perhaps!
 

CONSERVATIVE

 

The headline grabbing policy in the Conservative Manifesto is their commitment to keep the £2 bus fare cap in England for the entirety of the next parliament. They say they will use funding from the savings their reform of the railways will deliver. The Tories introduced the £2 fare scheme back in January 2023, and is their flagship policy on buses. Their £2 fare has been credited with delivering the huge recovery in bus patronage we’ve seen since Covid. Passenger numbers are now at or close to the pre- Covid levels.

 

Perhaps inevitably, the Tory Manifesto does kowtow to the car lobby with its commitment to see what they describe as the “better use of bus lanes” permitting them only when they are “needed.”

The Conservative manifesto also makes a commitment to continue supporting bus services across the North of England and in the Midlands with funding reallocated from HS2. Sadly, there is no similar recognition of the bus needs of the South West or specifically of Somerset (that’s not only disappointing but surprising as 3 Tory MPs are defending seats within the Somerset Council area and Somerset has had the worst rated bus services in the country).

LIBDEM
 

The LibDem manifesto provides a lot more detail than do the other manifestos on their plans for buses.

Foremost is a Liberal Democrat government would back bus franchising powers for local authorities in England. It would proceed with “simplifying funding” for services so that routes can be restored and added “especially in rural areas.”

 

The Lib Dems would also maintain the £2 bus fare cap grant in England outside of London ‘while fares are the subject of a review.’  So, whilst not such an unequivocal commitment on the £2 fare as the Tories have given, it’s better than Labour who hasn’t given any commitment in their manifesto on the £2 fare.

 

The LibDem manifesto say they would work to integrate bus, rail and light rail ticketing, via a daily cap. Local Authorities would gain powers to introduce “network-wide” ticketing.

 

The party would also extend half-fares on modes (including buses) to 18-year-olds, and work with operators to introduce what it terms a “Young Person’s Buscard.” That would give 19-25’s a third off bus fares, similar to the Young Person’s Railcard.

 

The Lib Dem manifesto says that as part of what it calls ‘a bus-boosting package’, it would have a single financial pot to expand services and introduce zero-emission vehicles in order to speed the move to zero-emission.

 

While rural bus services should be helped by the manifesto commitment to simplify funding, the LibDems would also encourage alternatives such as demand responsive transport.
 

GREEN

The Greens say, “Our transport choices account for around a quarter of carbon emissions, so it’s vital to make it easier to opt for greener choices. Yet public transport provision continues to decline, often leaving those on low incomes with no affordable options. Greens MPs will champion better, cheaper public transport, so that every community is connected and can thrive.”

They would increase public subsidies of our buses and would also introduce free bus travel for under 18s and give local authorities control over and funding for improved bus services.

REFORM

 

As for the Reform Party, they’ve not yet said much about buses. They want to stop HS2 and spend the money saved in the North (no mention of the South West). In their manifesto, they also want to ensure ‘projects are better coordinated between councils, contractors, government and utilities’ to ensure fewer roadworks.

They also want to end what they call is ‘the war on motorists’.

 

CONCLUSION

It’s been said deciding which party to vote for in a General Election is a bit like catching a bus. If there isn’t one going to your exact destination, you don’t not go, instead you take the bus that’s going closest to where you would like to be.

Of course, you could decide not to vote for the Party but for the candidate and you vote for who you think would be the MP and best represent your local interests.

A list of all the candidates in Somerset constituencies can be found here:
https://www.somerset.gov.uk/news/nominations-of-prospective-parliamentary-candidates-for-the-general-election/

bottom of page