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Local Bus Services

Volume 750: debated on Thursday 16 May 2024

The Government have provided over £4.5 billion to support and improve bus services since March 2020. Leicestershire County Council received over £3.5 million in emergency recovery funding to help maintain services during and after covid, and has recently been awarded up to £7.6 million to deliver its bus service improvement plan.

As the House will know, the word democracy comes from the Greek “demos”, meaning the people, and “kratos”, meaning power—power to the people. Well, the 1,200 people in North West Leicestershire who signed a petition for the reinstatement of the numbers 16, 29 and 29A bus services on their original routes are not feeling very empowered. Despite a very well run campaign, there is no movement from Arriva or Leicestershire County Council. What can the Minister do to help my constituents?

Where commercial operators want to change a service, as I understand happened in this community, they have to work with the local authority to replace services where possible and limit disruption. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that Leicestershire County Council has also received over £1 million from the rural mobility fund to trial demand-responsive services, and I encourage him to meet it.

My constituents and I are extremely concerned about Arriva’s sudden proposals to close its depot in Aylesbury, with no warning that it was even being considered. The company admitted that it would mean ending the vast majority of its services in our area, causing huge problems for those who rely on its buses to get to school, work and hospital. I have demanded an urgent meeting with its senior management, but what can the Department do to help hold Arriva to account and ensure Aylesbury residents have the bus services they need and deserve?

I am aware of this problem, which has recently come to light. I would certainly encourage a meeting between the local authority, the bus company and my hon. Friend, and I will assist him in any way in that respect. I am aware that some local operators, in the form of Carousel Buses and the Oxford Bus Company, are running some of the services, but I accept that there is an issue in Aylesbury and I will help him on an ongoing basis.