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"Public Transport should be viewed as a Public Service, not a profit-making industry," says Lib Dem councillor.

December 18, 2021 8:12 PM

Integrated TransportA local Liberal Democrat Councillor has called for a new way of looking at Basic Public Transport - we should view it as a Public Service, not as a cash cow for private industry.

"Let's face it," says Nick Hollinghurst, Liberal Democrat Dacorum Borough Councillor for the Tring West & Rural Ward. "If we want decent, affordable and accessible public transport we need to recognise that it will require significant public subsidy. But what would be the alternative? Roads continually congested by polluting cars and lorries, burning money and getting nowhere fast? Or efficient, affordable public transport - less stress, cleaner air and a safer future."

Cllr Hollinghurst, who was first elected to Dacorum Borough Council in 1981, remembers that local councils used to play an active role in planning, supporting and developing public transport. "The bus networks in Dacorum used to be far more extensive and frequent - and we used to have our own Park & Ride Scheme based in Gadebridge Park. The County Council and the 10 District and Borough Councils in Hertfordshire would co-operate in planning and both tiers of local authorities also contributed significantly to keeping the bus service affordable and effective."

"The councils used to share the support costs on the basis of districts and boroughs contributing 25p for every pound the Councty Council paid out in their areas."

"However," he continued, "this was not to last. First Margaret Thatcher's 1985 Bus Act forced local authorities outside the large metropolitan areas to withdraw from involvement in bus transport and secondly co-ordination and integration of services between different companies and cross-subsidy between routes, was prohibited on competition grounds. Secondly, under the onslaught of their war on local government, Tory governments - in those times when we had them - unleashed cut afterl cut on local council funding while tightly capping council tax rises. Inevitably, faced with steadily shrinking budgets and resources, the district and borough councils, one by one, had to abandon their bus transport support. Faced with rising costs and shrinking revenues, the private companies providing the services cut back more and more to those routes that remained profitable routes. As Hemel Hempstead and the rest of the Borough expanded, paradoxically the bus services contracted and it wasn't very long before Dacorum closed down its Park & Ride Scheme."

"But we cannot continue like this," he concluded. "We are faced with a Climate Emergency and must cut our carbon dioxide emissions. Just converting all cars to Electric vehicles is not enough. We need to take two other related actions. We must cut the number of private cars on UK's roads by at least 25%, increase the use of public transport and de-carbonise the vehicles that are used."

Apart from the installation of more roadside and car park EV charging points Nick is advocating:
* restoration of meaningful financial support for public transport from all local councils
* finding ways to support and integrate the use of taxis with the rest of public transport
* developing effective and economic demand-responsive bus services
*
restore a more extensive Park & Ride service in Hemel Hempstead
* car and cycle parking facilities at strategic bus stops
*
a requirement for all bin lorries and delivery vehicles to be all-electric

"If we don't take reasonable actions like these, our great-grandchildren will be faced with disaster in world we would find unrecognisable!"