An £18 million scheme to speed up Sheffield's buses has cut journey times by up to a quarter, figures have revealed - and further work is on the way to reduce delays.
Measures including new bus lanes, junction upgrades, CCTV cameras, road widening and changes to signalling have been brought in to ease congestion at Meadowhead, Gleadless Valley and in the city centre, among other sites, under the country's first Better Bus Area initiative.
The biggest improvement has been recorded on Penistone Road, notorious for its rush-hour queues, where a bus lane was created and junctions were altered. Along the route, the duration of peak-time evening journeys was cut from more than five minutes in 2014/15 to less than four-and-a-half minutes by last year, a difference of 25 per cent.
Highways chiefs say the trend has continued into this year, with journey times on Penistone Road falling to 4.11 minutes on average.
The Government-funded Better Bus Area scheme - delivered by operators, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and the council under the Sheffield Bus Partnership - finishes next March. Before that deadline, Chesterfield Road at Heeley is set to be widened and further improvements made along Barnsley Road.
Staff from bus operators and the council are also working together for the first time at the city's Urban Traffic Control Centre in Carbrook, which oversees every set of traffic lights in Sheffield, with the aim of sharing information and lessening disruption on the roads.
Overall, the number of services running on time has risen by three per cent in Sheffield, from 83.9 per cent in December 2015 to 87.1 per cent at the end of last year.
Kevin Belfield, managing director of First South Yorkshire, said he was 'pleased' with the results, but added: "It’s important that we don’t become complacent, as what really matters to our customers is our ability to run services punctually.”
And Matt Davies, Stagecoach Yorkshire's MD, said there was a need to 'keep up the momentum'.
"Improvements in journey time can easily be offset by increasing traffic levels and congestion. Focusing on improving bus journey times is now even more essential than ever.”
Council cabinet member Jack Scott said it was important to 'offer people choices in how they travel', while Ben Gilligan, director of public transport at SYPTE, said buses linked people to jobs, education, shops and leisure, in turn reducing congestion and carbon emissions.
"Buses are a vital public service and an effective bus network is an essential part of a vibrant economy – linking people to jobs, education, shops and leisure."
Up to 55 million passengers a year travel on Sheffield's 187 bus routes.