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Labour promises free bus travel for under-25s - but there's a catch

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Dave Fawbert
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London bus

Jeremy Corbyn is aiming to shore up the youth vote with a new policy announcement - but how exactly will it work?

Labour’s astonishing election performance in 2017 was largely put down to the effects of a ‘youthquake’ - with the media declaring that swarms of gullible young people had been duped into voting by Jeremy Corbyn’s giveaway promises.

Of course - this all turned out to be a total myth - but, nonetheless, the party has seemingly decided to shore up its support amongst the UK’s youth, with a new policy aimed squarely at them.

On Thursday, Labour will pledge that millions of Brits under the age of 25 will get free bus travel, should they win the next election which, with a hung parliament and potentially divisive votes on Brexit to come, could feasible happen at any time.

Jeremy Corbyn is to announce that the new policy could benefit up to 13 million young people, saving them up to £1,000 a year each, and will be paid for using money ring-fenced from Vehicle Excise Duty (also known as Car Tax).

He 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.”

At the moment, kids under 5 generally ride free, but older children pay reduced rates, and over 18s a full fare.

However, there is a catch.

Labour promises free bus travel for under-25s - but there's a catch

Jeremy Corbyn having a whale of a time on the number 36 bus from Middlesbrough to Stockton on Tees back in March 2017

The policy will still depend on the actions of your local area. Funds for the free travel scheme will be provided individually to local authorities who follow a specific set of conditions, namely those who introduce bus franchising (similar to that seen in London) or who move to public ownership of their local bus services.

Corbyn believes that this will encourage local authorities to create municipally owned bus companies, run on a not-for-profit basis.

Labour has estimated the cost of the new policy to be £1.4bn a year.

As it stands, from April 2020, money from Vehicle Excise Duty will be ring-fenced to spend on new roads - a policy instigated by the Tory government. However, Labour would split this cash instead between road-building and this new free bus policy; although, confusingly, a Labour source told the Mirror that “no less money would be spent on road building because the extra funds would be provided from capital - long-term, one-off - spending”.

Naturally, the Conservatives are not in favour of the scheme, claiming that Labour’s own calculations suggest that it could, in fact, cost up to £13bn a year.

Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani MP 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.”

Labour responded by saying that the policy was fully costed and would boost the economy by enabling young people to travel, for both work and leisure.

(Images: Getty)