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Public Transport: Privatisation & Poverty

Get Glasgow Moving were very pleased to welcome Philip Alston, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty & Human Rights, as guest speaker at our Public Meeting on ‘Public Transport: Privatisation & Poverty’, which preceded our third Annual General Meeting on 24 February 2021.

As Special Rapporteur in 2018, Philip Alston conducted an official visit to the UK – the world’s fifth-richest country – to investigate the government’s policies related to poverty.

Alston’s report highlighted the privatisation and deregulation of public transport, and the deterioration in services and increase in costs that has resulted, as a key factor exacerbating poverty across the UK. He wrote:

“… isolation and inability to afford basic transport had serious negative consequences in terms of access to jobs, schools, health care and community engagement. Local authorities have often simply abandoned their responsibilities by relegating key services to the private sector and failing to take any regulatory measures to ensure basic service provision. Abandoning people to the private market in relation to services that affect every dimension of their basic well-being, without guaranteeing their access to minimum standards, is incompatible with human rights requirements.” p.11

Alston was so shocked by the accounts of poor public transport provision in the UK that in 2020, he and his team at New York University School of Law, launched a new project investigating the impact of privatising buses in the UK (find out how to Get Involved below).

Our Public Meeting offered an opportunity to hear Philip Alston speak about the findings of his report from the UK and to introduce the aims the new project. We then heard from Fran Postlethwaite from the Better Buses Yorkshire campaign about their fight to bring buses in their region back into public control using new ‘franchising’ powers (now available in England and Scotland), which allow transport authorities to plan routes and regulate fares to meet passengers’ needs.

Seeking help for new project on UK buses

The former UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, is investigating the human rights impacts of deregulated buses. He needs your help!

Alston visited the UK as UN Rapporteur in 2018, and has since launched a new project at New York University School of Law investigating what happens when governments privatise essential services and sectors. He and his team are currently researching the deregulated bus system in the UK. They are hearing from people across the country about their experiences with the bus system including with regard to affordability, access, route cuts, and usability. They will be releasing a report on this and conducting advocacy based on the research later this year.

If you would like to share your experiences with the bus system, please write to the project co-director Bassam Khawaja at bassam.khawaja@nyu.edu