Yesterday the Public Accounts Committee lavished praised on Ken Livingstone and Transport for London (TfL) for their “commitment” in increasing bus usage within the capital. It is praise well deserved. Outside the capital usage has fallen by 7% whereas “London has seen bus usage increase by 32% over recent years” with over 6 million passenger journeys now made every weekday.
The Committee has recommended that the Department of Transport should “identify what factors have been critical for success in London, and how far they might be replicated in the other regions to stimulate the desired expansion.”
New Labour may find it hard to to take lessons from the unashamedly socialist Mayor of London – whose selection and eventual election they did so much to prevent – especially as the ethos of public service he has brought to London’s bus network is missing from most of their policies.
Livingstone’s approach is very different and has seen greater numbers of buses, easy payment via the Oyster card, free travel for all under 16s and, from September 2006, the abolition of bus fares for under-18s in full-time education.
The London bus network is the most accessible for wheelchair users in the world and will soon lead the way in becoming more accessible to hearing and visually impaired passengers as TfL introduce audio visual announcements.
It takes genuine effort and dedication to ensure one of the biggest bus networks in the world runs for the benefit of the passengers and Livingstone has pulled it off. He has his detractors but on this issue we agree with the MPs on the Public Accounts Committee; “The Mayor is to be congratulated on his success in increasing bus usage in London”.