We live in two different worlds when it comes to public transport.
Inside the M25, there is a plethora of public transport options, a frequent and reliable bus service, the underground, black cabs and taxis available within minutes – with access to a constant stream of real-time data.
In my constituency the timetables are more aspirational than informative, and the bus will arrive when it does. Making ongoing plans when relying on the local bus network in my constituency is what separates the optimists from the pessimists.
The only thing more unreliable than the bus is a Northern Rail Durham Coastline Train on a match day.
The infrastructure gap in the UK is so stark, and despite frequent rhetoric on levelling up, the reality on the ground is a widening divide in transport services.
Independent analysis of the Government’s transport spending by the IPPR North think tank shows that the North received just £349 per person compared to £864 in London since the Conservative Party took office in 2010.
Far from the Northern Powerhouse, Shared Prosperity or Levelling Up, Northern England has been shortchanged by the Government over the last decade to the sum of £86 billion pounds.
That is the investment gap between the North and London, an amount that wouldn’t have closed the gap but would have maintained existing inequalities. The government are delivering a Northern Powerdown, stealing prosperity and levelling down our region in a way not seen since they stop the once beating heart of industrial Britain in the coalfield communities that I represent.
Public Transport is too important to fail. Whether it is moving people to support the economy, to shop on our high street or get people to work, unreliable and expensive bus service can have a significant bearing on an individual’s life chances and living standards.
We need a change in mindset from the Government, bus, trains, and metro systems are vital public services to strengthening and growing our economy. They are not secondary distractions when they are situated outside of London.
Regional transport services need to recover from the disastrous policy of deregulation and privatisation of the 1980s.
Decisions around the regulation and control of bus services should rest with Local Government and Transport Authorities, democratically elected and accountable to the public. These services should be run in the public’s interest, safeguarding vital routes, particularly in rural areas, rather than being run solely for the pursuit of profit, pricing out people from public transport and the life opportunities good public transport links can deliver.