This morning (15th of June) members of the Socialist Party delivered a petition to the Metro central office in Leeds.
Andrew Smith, Leeds North West Socialist Party
Signatures on the petition had been collected over several weeks and calls for affordable fares including no increases above inflation, an end to attacks on pay and conditions of transport workers, re-nationalisation of the public transport network under democratic control and a plan of investment and development in an integrated network.
As part of the preamble to the petition, it points out that if Metro introduces quality contracts, which they have been discussing for a number of years, this would give them powers over fares, routes and regularity of busses. Further details of these contracts can be found (https://leedssocialistparty.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/demand-fairer-fares-not-fairer-contracts-for-the-bosses-and-private-companies/: in this previous blog article).
The petition has been taken into communities most affected by the constant hikes in bus and trains fares. In the city centre, the formerly free city bus, a vital service for many people, especially those with mobility issues, is no longer free as part of the Labour council cuts last year. Signatures were also collected in Otley and other surrounding areas of Leeds, where services regularly get cancelled due to breakdowns, caused by a failure to replace outdated vehicles, a failure of the private bus and train companies to invest in development that would happen automatically in a nationalised transport service.
At an all-Leeds meeting a few months ago, comrades in the discussion pointed out that on only one statistic is England even considered respectable when compared to other European countries and that the English transport service is far more normally near or at the bottom of such demographics. There is little doubt from the people the Socialist Party have been speaking to that improvement is needed regarding public transport, nationally and locally.
A representative of Metro did come to collect the 700 + name petition and in discussion largely said that Metro were in agreement. Historically, Metro actually opposed privatisation of public transport. Now their position has shifted to suggesting that it should be a combination of renationalised services and private, to allow for profit but with democratic control over.
The Socialist Party would argue that although the quality contract scheme would give Metro direct powers over fare levels, there would be resistance to lowering fares and other measures by the private operating companies, therefore we call for the re-nationalisation of the public transport network under democratic control.
The representative from Metro also stated that the petition also demonstrated that passengers and service users are concerned and being effected by decisions being made by people often far removed from public transport itself. Whilst still arguing for a re-nationalised public transport network, the Socialist Party will be waiting to see whether Metro implements quality contracts and will continue to put pressure on them to set fares at an affordable level, rather than see further hikes in prices.