Luciana Berger, the Co-operative Party’s candidate for Liverpool Metro Mayor, has said that co-operative and mutual approaches will be key to her plan for improving transport in the Liverpool City Region, pledging to create a bus service that puts the needs of the community before those of the large bus companies

I want a bus service that works for all parts of the Region, that puts passengers first, not one just interested in making profits for big bus companies.”

At a campaign visit to St Helens bus station, the Labour & Co-operative MP for Wavertree said that she would ‘insist’ that new licences for bus services are granted to not-for-profit bus operators, including co-operatives and mutuals, alongside pledges to widen disabled access and to create part-time season tickets for part-time workers, who, she noted, are predominately female.

A co-operative and mutual approach, Luciana Berger argued, would encourage greater integration and flexibility in timetabling, and, more fundamentally, give passengers a ‘direct say’ in how bus services are run, ensuring that the transport network delivers for the region as a whole:

The introduction of bus co-operatives will be the first step to ensuring that people have the bus services they need, when and where they need them at an affordable cost right across the Region.”

A greater role for not-for-profit operators is a key demand of the Co-operative Party’s People’s Bus campaign. At present, just five companies (Arriva, Stagecoach, First, National Express and Go-Ahead) operate 85% of the UK’s bus services.

The Party argues that operators use their dominance of the market to ‘cherry pick’ the most lucrative routes, while demanding public subsidy to operate the others. With hard-pressed local authorities facing significant cuts to their own budgets and increasingly unable to provide such subsidy, the result has been the loss of hundreds of bus routes in recent years and a fall in passenger numbers.

Not-for-profit operators, on the other hand, are able to reinvest and cross-subsidise routes, giving communities a greater say in the delivery of their services, and the opportunity protect less-profitable routes that are valued by the community.

Berger’s announcement comes just weeks after Co-operative Party’s peers argued for amendments to the government’s Bus Services Bill in the Lords, that would give not-for-profit approaches a greater role in law. The Co-operative Party amendments would:

  1. Require local authorities who choose to set up a franchising system for bus operators, to consider how passenger representation can be increased over the life of the franchise agreement.
  2. Require local authorities to ensure that not-for-profit bus operators are integrated into any bus franchising frameworks
  3. Give communities more power to protect services that are at risk of being cut, by extending powers currently used to protect local pubs and sports grounds to include bus routes.