On January 28th Labour MP Keith Vaz (Leicester East) tabled an interesting early day motion on public transport. He noted:
“That this House is concerned that First has increased bus prices in Leicester by an average of 10 pence a ticket; notes that these price hikes come during a huge fall in the price of crude oil; further notes that competitor company Arriva is freezing the price of all single bus tickets; supports bus usage as an environmentally beneficial and affordable alternative to driving; and calls on First to review its pricing structure in Leicester.” (Early day motion 742)
This issue was duly reported in the Leicester Mercury as “Keith Vaz raises concern over ‘short-sighted’ First bus ticket prices in Parliament.” Needless to say, no one would disagree that bus prices in Leicester are already ridiculously high and that further price hikes should be opposed. All the more so when one considers that the corporation that profits from First buses price rises is considered to be “the leading transport operator in the UK and North America” with revenues “of over £6.5 billion per annum.” But that First’s owners should place their own profits before the needs of their employees and customers is not too surprising, especially given the fact that the chairman of their board of directors is the former head of Citibank’s exploitative operations in the UK.
And while Arriva may have frozen the price of all single bus tickets, they are hardly a bastion of justice as they are owned by Deutsche Bahn, one of the world’s leading private transport companies. Indeed since July 2012 Arriva have been providing non-emergency patient transport for Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Bassetlaw. Yet despite receiving a handsome £26 million contract to take patients to and from hospital appointments, the Leicester Mercury reported in December 2013 that Arriva had “failed to meet all its target times.”
Yet begging for profit-driven corporations to restrain themselves from profiteering at the hands of their customers is clearly futile. It is certainly not a useful solution for addressing the root cause of the crisis in public transport that has long been facing this country. Instead the best way of stopping private companies ripping the public off would be to call the renationalisation of all public transport. Labour Party MP’s shy away from such solutions, but not so TUSC candidates, whose core policy is to re-nationalise all rail, bus and ferry services to build an integrated, low-pollution and affordable public transport system.