Monday, November 29

UK Bus Privatization Violated Basic Rights, Former UN Rapporteur Says | Transportation policy

British bus services outside London were so damaged by privatization that people were unable to access basic necessities such as work, education and health care, according to a scathing report by the former UN special rapporteur on human rights.

Many people in Britain had lost jobs and benefits, were forced to give up education, or were cut off from communities and healthcare as bus services became more expensive, unreliable and dysfunctional after the reform. from 1985, according to research.

The report is co-authored by Philip Alston, a New York-based academic whose 2018-19 UN reports denounced the “social calamity” of UK austerity policies that he claimed had caused widespread poverty.

Alston said the bus deregulation, introduced under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, had “provided a masterclass on how not to run an essential public service, leaving residents at the mercy of private actors who have complete discretion on how to run a bus route, or whether to run one at all ”.

He added: “In case after case, service that was once reliable, convenient and widely used has been drastically reduced or unaffordable.”

The authors interviewed passengers across the UK who described a fragmented and broken system with decreasing passenger numbers as fares increased.

While the government has recognized that buses need renewed investment and enacted some reforms, which could allow franchising in cities other than London, the report was skeptical of the recently revealed national bus strategy.

Alston said the UK could afford a world-class bus system if it wanted to. “Instead, the government has outsourced responsibility for a vital public service, supporting an arrangement that prioritizes private profits and denying the public a decent bus.”

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “Services in England are spotty and frankly not good enough.”

They said the strategy unveiled this year would “completely revamp services,” adding: “We will provide unprecedented funding, but we need councils to work closely with operators and the government to develop the services of the future.”

The Confederation of Passenger Transport, representing private bus operators, said that reliable travel, well-equipped buses and competitive prices were goals that were shared by all. A spokesperson said: “These are best delivered when operators and local authorities work in partnership without local people having to bear the financial risk and cost of city control.”

Transport unions said the report was “completely accurate in its assessment.”

RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch said the government urgently needed to rethink its strategy “and stop giving in to private operators,” adding: “It needs to reverse the ban on new municipal bus companies and provide enough limited national funding to everyone”. local authorities to provide the bus services required by their local communities. “

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