Mention policy on buses to any national newspaper political journalist and the chances are you will be sneered at. Buses are a fringe issue, they will say.
But local bus services are a vital lifeline to so many residents, not just for transport but also for social issues.
Last year, Cheshire West and Chester Council, under the leadership of Cheshire’s outstanding Lord Lieutenant, David Briggs, launched the Poverty Truth Commission. It aimed to hear from people across our borough who were trapped in poverty, to hear about their life and what problems were keeping them from getting on in life.
For young people, the cost and unavailability of buses at the right times meant they could not get to college to further their education, or even get to job interviews. We assume that everyone has a car but it just isn’t the case.
And for senior citizens, buses are again a lifeline. Not only do they provide transport into town but they often offer a social focus to meet friends and chat on the way in and back home again.
I am getting more and more complaints about bus services. The service from Dodleston and through Westminster Park and Lache has been affected by Flintshire Council’s decision that they can’t afford to fund it across the border – another consequence of central government cuts to local council finances.
The old Dee Bee service is now timed so that it leaves parts of Chester before 9.30 am, but by the time it gets to Handbridge it leaves after 9.30. That means some senior citizens can use their free bus passes, whilst others cannot.
The decision by the bus company to re-route its service through Upton was caused by it changing to double-deckers on that route, which could not fit under the railway bridge on Mill Lane by Bache station. But that change, whilst benefitting some, will impact on others.
I can remember the days of the old corporation buses, and when I came into Chester as a child we would get the old green Crossville buses to the station on Delamere Street. Since then bus services have been privatised and deregulated. Except in London of course, where they are still regulated by Transport for London.
I am old fashioned. I believe that bus services should be run for the benefit of bus passengers, not for the benefit of privatised bus companies. So the next time a London-based journalist sneers at the importance of local buses, ignore them. Buses are a lifeline to many communities and too important to be left to the unregulated market.