Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh has said Labour would allow councils to take control of bus services if it won next year’s general election.
Speaking to a meeting of chairs of transport committees from England’s city regions, Ms Creagh (pictured) said: “A Labour government will provide all necessary support to ensure that any city that wants London-style buses can have them.”
She added: “Labour wants to deliver cheaper, more frequent, more reliable and greener bus services with smart ticketing, clear timetables and real time information.”
Her remarks came after the North East Combined Authority approved a proposal for councils to take over buses in Tyne & Wear.
Powers have existed since 2000 but have never previously been used because of legal difficulties and threats of action under human rights law from operators who argue they would be deprived of their businesses.
James Lewis (Lab), chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport committee, said: “We need new powers to make it easier for us to introduce the regulated system that allows London to plan its bus services.”
Buses in London remained regulated when those elsewhere were deregulated in 1985.
The system used in the capital sees Transport for London, controlled by the capital’s mayor, specify routes, fares, frequencies and vehicle types, with operators bidding to be paid to run routes.
Elsewhere operators are free to run the services they choose, although councils can subsidise socially necessary but commercially unviable routes.
Latest government figures show that in the past decade bus use has risen sharply in London while declining slightly in the metropolitan areas.
There were 1.8bn journeys by bus in London in 2004-05, and 2.3bn in 2013-14.
By contrast, in six metropolitan areas outside the capital, there were a combined 1.07bn bus journeys in 2004-05 and 1.04bn last year.