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Bus chief welcomes £1.3bn funding pledge but calls for policies to promote bus travel

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WARRINGTON bus chief Ben Wakerley has welcomed a pledge of £1.3bn new funding a year from Labour to expand bus services, but says more needs to be done to to promote bus travel.

Mr Wakerley, Chief Executive of Warrington’s Own Buses said: “As a municipal bus company, Warrington’s Own Buses make every effort to keep the town connected.

“Intense competition from the private car, with frozen fuel duty and cheap/free car parking make it increasingly difficult for bus services to compete. This results in pressure on fares and service viability.

“This is the opposite of what we should be doing if we are to prevent climate change, reduce congestion and improve the economy.

“We call for local and national policies that promote bus travel and reflect the true impact and cost of private motoring to bring back balance.”

He added: “We welcome any funding that would be positive for bus services and look forward to understanding the detail in greater dept.”

Labour announced the new funding of £1.3bn per year, if they come to power, to reverse cuts made to 3000 bus routes by the Tories since 2010 and to fund the expansion of new bus services.

They say reinstating bus services across the country will provide a lifeline to many people, particularly the elderly, the vulnerable and people living in rural areas who have been totally cut off as a result of their bus services disappearing.

Increasing bus use will also combat air pollution and climate change impacts, address inequalities and support local economies.

This policy complements Labour’s plans to put communities in control of local services by regulating and bringing into public ownership local services, and introducing free bus fares for young people.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, and Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Transport Secretary, announced the new funding on a visit to Nottingham today, where the Labour council still runs their own buses including a fleet of eco buses.

Mr Corbyn said: “Bus services have been devastated by nine years of austerity. Thousands of routes have been axed, fares have soared and passenger numbers are in freefall.

“Local services are a lifeline for many, particularly the elderly and those in rural areas. Cuts have had disastrous consequences for our towns and city centres and for air pollution and the environment.

“Bus networks are essential for towns and cities and for tackling rural poverty and isolation, which is why Labour is committed to creating thriving bus networks under public ownership.”

Mr McDonald added: “The Tories have neglected buses, along with the people and communities who rely on them.

“Slashing bus funding damages our communities by cutting people off from work and leisure and worsening congestion and air pollution.

“Labour is announcing an end to austerity for buses and the funding needed to transform local services to allow our towns and cities to thrive.”

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Experienced journalist for more than 35 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with six in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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