Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead will join transport campaigners on Friday in Queen Square, Liverpool, to call on residents across the Merseyside region to back plans to bring buses into public control.
Launched earlier this month, the Moving Buses Forward consultation puts Mayor Steve Rotheram’s plans for a London-style bus network to the public for approval.
The system, also called re-regulation or franchising, would mean decisions about routes, timetables, fares and standards would no longer be made by each private bus operator, but integrated and planned by a TfL-style public body.
The activists will be joined by public figures from across the city region including Dan Carden, MP for Liverpool Walton, Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead, and representatives from Liverpool Guild of Students, and Liverpool Hospitals Health Branch of UNISON.
As part of the stunt at 1pm, the public representatives will sign a 3-foot giant prop consultation form backing plans for public control before handing it in to the Merseytravel Centre on Queens Square.
Another part of the stunt will see activists wear costumes in the new livery of the region’s publicly owned buses, something that could be rolled out across all of the region’s buses if the Mayor’s plans are supported.
The action organisers, Better Buses for Merseyside, believe that the current system, called deregulation, hands too much power over the private bus operators, allowing them to make decisions that are purely in the interests of profits, not the general public.
They also highlight that bus franchising unlocks new powers that are illegal under private control, including on fares and routes.
The scheme would allow a new London-style hopper fare, allowing passengers to change between routes and operators as many times as needed in a single journey under an hour.
It would also allow cross-subsidy so that profitable commuter routes can support quieter but essential services connecting communities to workplaces or hospitals.
Matthew Topham, a campaigner at Better Buses for Merseyside, said, “For decades, Merseyside’s buses have been run in the interests of a few fat cat bus company shareholders.”
“The Mayor’s plans would start putting power back in the hands of local people and reduce the steady leaking of public money out of the region by roughly halving bus company dividends.”
“The most exciting thing is that the power to make buses work for people, not profit, has been handed to the public: taking buses into public control is the biggest devolved power the region has, so right now residents are really powerful.”
“If you want to get a super quick way to take part, signing up to our petition will give you an alert when our response guide is out, more than halving the time it takes to back the plans.”
Joe Baldwin, Chair of UNISON Liverpool Hospitals Health Branch, who will speak at the event about the impact of privatised buses on health workers, said, “Bringing the buses back under public control will have a profound impact on our lives. It will provide affordable and reliable transportation options for NHS workers, ensuring that we can get to our workplaces without financial strain.
“It will also allow our community to plan our transport to prioritise the safety and security of the NHS night-shift workers who travel through the night to keep our health service going.
“People, not profit, must be at the heart of our public transport services.”
To get alerts about how to respond to the consultation, sign up for the Better Buses for Merseyside petition including opting in for updates: www.megaphone.org.uk/p/BetterBusesLCR