POLITICS
11/04/2018 22:31 BST | Updated 12/04/2018 09:48 BST

Labour Pledges Free Bus Travel For Under-25s

'Young people deserve a break,' says Jeremy Corbyn.

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

Labour will offer free bus travel to people under 25 if the party wins power, Jeremy Corbyn will say on Thursday. 

The Labour leader will declare that “young people deserve a break” and commit to helping them “travel to work, to study and to visit friends” in a speech in Derby.

The party’s free travel scheme would be introduced in areas where councils bring buses under public control or take on franchises.

The Tories said the policy was undeliverable but Labour said it would be paid for using money ring-fenced from vehicle excise duty. 

On a visit to a sixth form educational centre on the local election campaign trail, Corbyn will say: “Young people deserve a break.

“Nearly eight years of Tory austerity have hit their incomes, their chance to buy a house and their career opportunities.

“Labour wants to help young people make the most out of life by investing in them, which is why today we are pledging the next Labour government will provide the funds to cover free bus travel for under 25s, to support them to travel to work, to study and to visit friends.

“Our policy provides help where it is most needed.

“On average, children, young people and households with children each have less disposable income than working age households without children.

“Young people also tend to be in lower paid, more insecure work, and they spend a higher proportion of their income on travel. Giving them free bus travel will make a huge difference to their lives.”

Providing government funding to councils for free bus travel could help up to 13 million young people save as much as £1,000 a year, Labour claims. 

Bus fares in England have risen by an average of 2.9% each year between 2012 and 2017 which is higher than the typical rate of inflation (2.3%), Department for Transport figures show.

PA Wire/PA Images

The annual number of passenger journeys fell by 70 million or 1.5% in the year ending March 2017 compared with the previous 12 months.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald will claim that private bus companies should no longer be allowed to run services “for profit not people”.

He will say: “We’ll encourage local authorities to take back control of their buses so they can provide a better and more sustainable service to young and old alike, wherever they live.”

Transport Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, called the plans unrealistic. 

She said: “This is yet another promise from Labour that they have no real ability to deliver.

“Labour admit themselves this could cost up to £13billion, meaning extra borrowing with working people paying the price.

“Last election Labour promised to pay off student debt if elected and then admitted it would actually cost too much to do. Now they’re bribing young people again with yet another empty promise. 

“Our balanced approach to the economy means that we are able to help people with the cost of travel by extending railcards to everyone under the age of 30, while councils also have the power to offer cheaper travel for young people.”

 A DfT spokeswoman said: “This Government is committed to supporting young people to play an active role in building a stronger society, and we have already committed to introducing discounted bus and train travel for apprentices.

“Local councils and bus companies know their passengers best, and many already use their legal powers to offer discounted fares for young people.

“In some areas, local authorities can also set the bus fares and routes for the benefit of their communities, thanks to our Bus Services Act.

“We want the bus industry to do all it can to make services more affordable for young people, but a national concession could lead to existing discounts being withdrawn with some young people potentially having to pay more at certain times.”