Sheffield children's bus fares still among country's cheapest despite 10p rise

Children's bus fares in South Yorkshire have risen from 70p to 80p.
Children's bus fares in South Yorkshire have risen from 70p to 80p.
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Parents are having to pay more for their children to ride the bus and tram in Sheffield - but the city’s fares are still among the cheapest in the country, an investigation by The Star has found.

Child’s concessionary tickets have gone up from 70p to 80p as South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive tackles big budget cuts.

Children's bus fares in Sheffield used to be 2p.

Children's bus fares in Sheffield used to be 2p.

The organisation says the increase is needed to help save £8.5 million after its funding was cut by 10 per cent.

However, while the new prices are a far cry from the subsidised 2p tickets which put Sheffield under the national spotlight in the days of South Yorkshire County Council, young people’s bus travel here is still cheaper than many fares in Leeds, Nottingham and Oxford.

SYPTE executive director Stephen Edwards said he was aware of the favourable price comparison, but would not have put forward the fare increase if it had not been necessary.

"It may be cheaper but there are still people in South Yorkshire for whom a 10p increase is a big issue, and we are very conscious of that," he said.

Children's bus fares in South Yorkshire have risen from 70p to 80p.

Children's bus fares in South Yorkshire have risen from 70p to 80p.

"We are always very keen to keep prices down and we work hard with out partners to try to make sure we get the best value for people in South Yorkshire."

The 80p fare is available to those aged five to 18 living in South Yorkshire and in full-time education. Children aged 11 to 16 must have a MegaTravel pass and those aged 16 to 18 must get a student pass. A £2 day ticket is also available.

The ticket price compares favourably to children's fares in neighbouring areas. In Derbyshire, for example, children's fares are usually half to two thirds of the adult fares. And while this can result in a cheaper ticket than in Sheffield, the variation in fares often means it is more expensive for children to travel.

A child travelling on a Stagecoach bus from Matlock to Chesterfield, for example, would have to pay £2.55.

Fares in Nottinghamshire also vary. A child can travel on a PlusBus service - which offers discount tickets bought with a train ticket - for £1.30 in Worksop. In the city of Nottingham a £1 fare is available to young people aged five to 17.

In Leeds a child aged up to 18 can travel for half the price of an adult ticket, although an ID card is required for older children.

Further south, prices often vary depending on journey time. But in Peterborough, for example, a child's ticket from the city centre to outlying suburb of Werrington would cost £1.65 on a Stagecoach bus, while in Oxford, a trip from the centre to the Oxford United FC stadium on the outskirts costs £1.

However, Sheffield is not the absolute cheapest. A child's bus ticket in London is 75p - with under-11s travelling for free - while in Manchester children can travel for 70p.

The cut was agreed in SYPTE's 2016/17 budget, which was passed in February. SYPTE said it had found £7.5 million of the £8.5 million it needed to save through 'internal, cost and reserve efficiencies', but had to increase child fares to help find the further £1 million.

At the time, the city region authority's chairman Sir Stephen Houghton said: “SYPTE is funded by the South Yorkshire local authorities it serves, and Government cuts to these budgets have had an impact on the proportion of money that can be allocated to public transport.

“Whilst this is not the route we want to take, we have had to make difficult decisions. To protect public transport services any further would mean cuts to other essential services in our region.

“We have looked at the best possible ways to make savings that will have the least impact on passengers, particularly those who are most vulnerable and depend on public transport to aid their independence, and the thousands of people who rely on it to go about their day to day lives.”

Sheffield was famous for its 2p children's bus fares, which were available on most city services until the 1980s. The fare was a point of pride for South Yorkshire County Council, which paid a subsidy to keep prices low. It was used by Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council as a model in tackling the city's own urban traffic and transport problems.

But when the Conservative government abolished the council in 1986, the subsidy started to dry up and prices rose.

Some Star readers said they were fine with the price rise.

Nicola Beal said: "People should stop whingeing about bus fares going up. What can you get for a pound these days?

"Think about how much it costs to run a bus and maintain it and pay the driver. They are a business after all. No one wants to work for nothing."

Emma Poncin said: "I moved out of Sheffield a few years ago. But I would love the child price here to be only 80p. It's half the adult price here.

"It can be really expensive and at times taxis work out cheaper than the bus."

Adrian Finney said: "Even at 80p child fairs are far cheaper than other cities. When I left Nottingham three years back it was £1.50 for a child's single even if you were only going two stops."

Rachael Bailey added: "I used to live in Sheffield - 80p is still good, I live in Lincolnshire now and there's no set price for kids, it's half of whatever the adult price is."

And Chris Barton said: "I came along Templeborough this morning and one of the new bus stop windows had been smashed, so can you blame them for putting bus fares up when they have got to keep replacing windows in bus shelters?"

Plenty of people had fond memories of the 2p fare.

Rosy Greaves said: "I remember when I was at Granville College and was on the bus to get there, a punk with a huge rainbow mohican got on, gruffly said to the driver 'Ow much to town?' and the driver replied '10p fer thee, an' 2p fer t'parrot' - priceless!"

Lee McDonald remembered 'the ticket machine that had an imprint of your 2p coin on it, and the sick feeling when you saw your 50p dinner money printed there instead'.

But not everyone is pleased with the new fare.

Anis Rahman said it was a 'total rip-off and should not be implemented', adding: "It is going to cost £8 per child for five days' school journeys."

Kath Garner said: "Hitting young families, where they have no choice but to send their kids to school on the bus - absolutely disgraceful."

And Julie Portman said: "That's just disgusting. My daughter has five kids - imagine her paying 80p each child each way to school everyday. I don't think so."

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