Ahead of the local council elections on May 3, the Labour leader will today offer under 25s a handout to help with travel costs – a pledge which could cost taxpayers up to £13billion.
Labour says it would fund the scheme using ring-fenced cash collected from road tax currently allocated for road building.
It estimates its policy would cost £1.4bn each year by the end of a five-year parliament.
Money to pay for the free passes would then be handed out to councils which go along with the party’s plans for local authorities to take bus services into public ownership or introduce a franchising system.
Jeremy Corbyn will insist “young people deserve a break” from Tory austerity and claim scrapping bus tickets will help them save on “travel to work, to study and to visit friends”.
Unveiling the policy at a sixth form centre in Derby later today, he will declare free bus travel – which could save up to 13 million young people as much as £1,000 a year – will “make a huge difference” to their lives.
But senior Conservatives have slammed the plans, insisting the scheme will cost far more than Labour has calculated and will inevitability require a tax hike to fund.
Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani 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.”
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Bus subsidies already run into the billions, costing each household £80 a year.
“Why on earth should 25-year-old taxpayers on minimum wage subsidise 24-year-old bankers to nip between meetings and lunches in the City?
“This is just another example of politicians trying to bribe people with their own money and the public should see through such shameless policies.”
Alongside Mr Corbyn, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald will insist private firms should no longer be allowed to operate bus 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.”
Bus fares have risen by an annual average of 2.9 percent for the past six years, according to official figures.
The typical rate of inflation during the same period was 2.3 percent.
Figures from the Department for Transport show the number of bus passenger journeys fell by 70 million, or 1.5 percent, in the year ending March 2017 compared to the previous year.