At tonight’s Norwich City Council’s June 2023 meeting of full council, Labour councillors will propose and support a motion calling for bus travel in Norwich to be free of charge. This would incentivise a shift to public transport, and serves to benefit those on lower incomes the most.
The motion notes that such a measure would need to be accompanied by interventions to improve speed, reliability and the experience of passengers.
Since 2013, the cost of bus usage has risen disproportionately compared to other modes of transport. Capping bus fares at a maximum of £1 per day would save the poorest 20% of households in England £0.8bn a year. However, making all bus fares in England free would save the poorest 40% of households £1.5bn a year.
Making bus fares in England completely free of charge would cost £2.3bn a year. For comparison, the most recent fiscal event in September 2022 proposed £40bn of tax cuts – largely to the most well off. The Government’s National Roads Fund committed £27bn in funding for new roads, despite the negative environmental impacts construction and increased traffic result in.
Cllr Mike Stonard, Leader of Norwich City Council, will propose the motion and says:
“Our poorest and most vulnerable citizens rely of buses for their everyday lives, to get to work, to get to the doctor’s surgery, to get to the shops, and so on. Yet services are unreliable and expensive, with the cost affecting the poorest disproportionately. The Tories don’t care. This administration has a radical transport plan to create a cleaner and more sustainable city, build in part on affordable, reliable bus services.”
Cllr Emma Hampton, cabinet member for climate change, will propose the motion and says:
“This is a bold an ambitious proposal, but it is affordable and deliverable with the right political will from the government. The Labour Party is already planning the biggest overhaul of our bus system in over 40 years, devolving powers to local areas so they can influence bus routes and set fares at an affordable rate. It also would give powers for authorities to start their own publicly owned bus services. Our motion tonight complements this policy and acknowledges that making buses free keeps money in people’s pockets while incentivising people to shift to using greener forms of transport.”