13 March 2017
Julie Howell, Peterborough parish councillor and Green Party coordinator, has become the first Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayoral Candidate to commit to using planned new powers to improve the struggling Cambridgeshire and Peterborough bus network.
The 'Bus Services Bill', which has recently received its second reading, if passed in its current form, will give directly elected mayors the power to franchise bus networks. This means the mayor and combined authority will be able to decide bus routes, fares and the vehicles needed and invite operators to bid for the franchise.
London has successfully used this system to create a modern, effective bus system. Other regions such as Greater Manchester and Cornwall are in the process of adopting similar powers they plan to use to improve bus services.
Julie wishes to use this opportunity to widen the access of buses to rural areas, and create a better all-round service. This would also include improving journey times, reducing their cost, and reducing air pollution by requiring cleaner, more modern vehicles.
Controversially, the Bill will also prohibit regions from creating new publicly owned bus companies. Cities such as Oxford, Reading and Edinburgh, have successful public-owned bus operators which are able to fully reinvest profits in their services, a model the Greens would like to see made possible in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Speaking about the new franchising powers, Julie commented;
I warmly encourage my fellow mayoral candidates to also commit to using the new bus franchising powers to develop a bus service for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough that is truly fit for purpose.
As well as a fairly priced and reliable bus service that carries residents safely to wherever they wish to go, the Mayor must put pressure on franchisees to ensure that services are fully accessible to older and disabled residents.
The number of people aged over 65 living in our county is expected grow by a third over the next ten years. The mayor must make it make it desirable for them to make the switch from cars to buses but they will only choose to do so if bus services are reliable and affordable. With fewer cars on the roads we hope to see less congestion despite the increase in population. This could prove to be a win-win for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
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