Cambridge MP urges new region mayor to use bus franchising powers
Cambridgeshire bus operator Stagecoach's manager says a franchise would hit residents' pockets.
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner is urging the mayoral candidates in the forthcoming Cambridgeshire & Peterborough mayoral elections to make clear whether they will use new powers to manage local bus services.
Daniel Zeichner, who is Labour’s shadow transport minister, recently led for the opposition in parliament on the Bus Services Bill which will become law in the next few weeks.
It gives combined authorities with a directly-elected mayor the power to introduce London-style bus-franchising.
Andy Campbell, director of Stagecoach in Cambridgeshire, said: “London is held up as an ideal model for franchising, but as their buses are subsidised by £600m every year, any Cambridge equivalent is likely to place a significant burden on the public purse and taxpayers.”
Labour argued that every area should have these tough powers, which in London have led to much lower fares and more frequent services, with faster modern smart-card ticketing.
The government has restricted them only to mayors, which means that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is the only non-metropolitan area in the country with these powers.
Mr Zeichner says it is important that voters know whether candidates intend to use them or not, as these powers could make a major difference to Cambridge bus choice and the number of routes locally, and to bus services for market towns, Peterborough and rural areas.
He said: “This is a big opportunity - a game-changer in terms of transforming local bus services. Existing operators don’t like being challenged, but everyone knows that the current system isn’t good enough.
“I hope that all the candidates will commit to using these franchising powers - but if they won’t, it is important that voters know that before they cast their vote.
“I know that Labour’s Kevin Price will work with me to transform our bus services and give the Greater Cambridge City Deal new powers it hasn’t had to work with bus operators on improving the range and choice of bus services for Cambridge and the surrounding area. I hope the other candidates can give the same assurance.”