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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Buses and Bereavement, Fares and Fathers, Transport and Tantrums.

A campaign has been building lately in Sheffield, protesting the massive increase in bus fares and the cuts in routes. We Want Our Buses Back have held demonstrations and lobbied the City Council.

A recent campaign update from them included the following interesting information:
New figures show that the government is set to miss its own targets for increasing bus passenger travel. Only in London, where there is some degree of regulation, have bus numbers increased. In Yorkshire, there has been a fall of 9%.

Hardly surprising, when in South Yorkshire, the main private operators First have cut services and raised fares (by 36% since last year!).

The only numbers going up are First’s profits! Their South Yorkshire division is the most profitable in the First Bus Group and the fifth most profitable bus company in the whole country with a 17.9% profit rate of return.

This blatant profiteering has led both the Passenger Transport Executive and the Sheffield City Council to pass motions of no confidence in First’s bosses. Even the Tory councillor (remember Thatcher de-regulated the buses in 1987) spoke in favour of regulation!

But local Labour politicians say they can’t do anything until 2009.

Presenting a 5,000 name petition, WWOBB speaker Calvin Payne told the council meeting, “We can’t wait four more years. No-one will be able to afford to go on a bus by then, that’s if there’s still any running.” A packed public gallery (including media students covering this issue) heard Calvin call on the council to organise a city referendum to get a mandate to go to the government to demand the powers and the funding to bring the buses back into public control and ownership.

He cited the public ballot WWOBB had conducted showing 75% in favour of council regulation of routes, timetables and fares, and 87% support for public transport to be brought back into public ownership. Only 3 people voted to keep things as they are.

With rumours of more service cuts in January, “We Want Our Buses Back!” plans to step up its campaign against First’s bosses and increase pressure on the Labour council to make a stand.

LATEST: Stagecoach, owned by notorious anti –union Brian Souter, has bought out Yorkshire Traction bus company based in Barnsley. Traction owned Terrier buses that run in Sheffield so now these are owned by Stagecoach as well as the Supertram (which they bought for £2million after £240million of public investment!).

And incidentally, Brian Souter (mentioned there) also ran the homophobic 'Keep the Clause' campaign in Scotland, an attempt to keep the evil Section 28 in law. A fantastic poster that I spotted in 2003 and kept the link to says it all really. Here.

I rely on the local buses and trams. I don't have, or want, a car. One of the joys of city living is the great public transport provision that at least should, in theory, exist.

Because I am disabled I have a pass which entitles me to cheaper bus and tram fares, and I am so glad of this lately as I see other people get onto buses where I get on, and going to where I am going, and paying seemingly more and more and more.

I'm not sure what this campaign can achieve, but the votes of no confidence seem to me that they must be significant steps forward. First are behaving appallingly and really should not be allowed to continue in this way.

The days of the 'Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire' and 2p bus fares seem long, long gone.

[(Edited at 9.24pm to add): Even the Sheffield Star is on the case - it must be bad!. (End edit).]

In other news, I posted my last batch of Xmess cards yesterday. I have already had 2 emails and 2 texts from people I hadn't heard from in ages, and to whom I sent cards because I don't want to lose touch with them. Hearing their news has given me a warm fuzzy feeling. Lots of nice words about Dad, too, which is simultaneously lovely and unbearably painful. It's six weeks since he died and I just want to cry all the time. I still find it incredibly hard to believe that he's really gone, and gone forever.

Hearing people say such nice things about him is so nice, so validating, and so important to me - that people remember him, and remember him well. It also reminds me of what a fab guy we've all lost. Not that I really need reminding, but yanno.

The toddler tantrum urges are still around - maybe if I actually had one the urges would pass, but I doubt it!

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