As we usher in a new season, it is great to see so many of us have returned to the office and children to school.
In my office we are mostly back and enjoying a new kind of normal, catching up after a long period of working primarily from home.
It is also encouraging to see more of us making journeys by public transport with nearly a quarter more people travelling by bus in the first week of September than August.
New health and safety measures are in place across our bus and train networks, including additional running buses and longer trains to ensure social distancing. We must also work to keep ourselves safe where we can, remembering Hands, Face, Space or, in other words, washing hands, covering faces and keeping distance. I believe, given these steps, that we should all feel confident to make more journeys by bus and train – and it is vitally important that we do.
Despite an increase in recent weeks, the number of people making journeys by bus remains two thirds lower than at this point last year. The impact of this is that bus providers are having to be sustained by government funding. But this is a temporary fix and realistically if we do not see a steep increase in the numbers of people travelling by bus than services are likely to be cut back. This would be challenging for many of us in the long term, particularly those in rural areas.
Train services are also under threat, which could be disastrous for people living outside of big cities. We saw last week that CrossCountry Trains have temporarily removed stops along its routes, including Manea and Whittlesea. As Mayor of this region, in which more people live outside of cities than in them, this is unacceptable to me.
I will continue to do everything in my power to bring about better public transport for the entire region. But I need your help. It is hard to make the case for more services when people aren’t using them. Quite simply when it comes to public transport, we must use it, or we risk losing it.