Angry bus passengers flooded transport chiefs with almost FOUR times as many complaints about services in the weeks after controversial Sheffield cuts came in, The Star can reveal today.
Figures obtained under The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign show that 1,132 ‘comments’ about bus services in South Yorkshire were made to the county’s transport body in November, once the widespread changes had come in.
In comparison there were just 298 comments made in the previous month.
The number of complaints also rose through November, peaking at 409 made solely during the fourth week of the month, more than in the entire previous four weeks.
Sheffield Council held a debate on the cuts - which axed, rescheduled, reduced or renumbered dozens of services - after a public outcry in which thousands of people signed an online petition calling for them to be reversed.
Long queues snaked around stops, full buses left confused passengers behind and many residents told of how they could no longer get to work, school or hospital appointments on time because of the changes.
Since then Sheffield Bus Partnership has brought in more double deckers to the network and 13 timetables have been revised with more changes expected in the coming weeks.
Greenhill teacher and mum Joanne Lumley, who started the online petition, said it was likely that true complaint numbers were higher, as social media comments were not counted as individual comments.
She added: “The fact that four times the number of people have bothered to complain shows how many people were affected and are more unhappy with the buses than they have ever been.
“A lot more people complained on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook because it was a half an hour wait on the telephone, but these weren’t counted.”
The data from South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive also show which five services received the most comments each month.
In October, before changes came in, they were services 38, 87, X78, 51 and 97. The executive also stressed there was a two week school holiday that month.
But in November, the top five services that were commented on were the buses 24, 85, 35, 20 and 86.
The 20, 35 and 85 all had their timetables altered in January.
Most complaints came in via email or telephone calls but an extra web form was also introduced in November to help people comment more easily - with 274 complaints coming via the website.
The figures come weeks before bus operators are due to go under scrutiny at Sheffield City Region’s transport committee on February 29 and Joanne has vowed to keep up the pressure - although she will struggle to attend the meeting as it is in Barnsley.
She said: “I have only been back at work a week and as far as I can see the buses are as bad as they were before Christmas. All the feedback I have had from people is exactly the same.
“All the changes are just token gestures, they are not effective.”
A spokesman for Sheffield Bus Partnership said that SYPTE employed three additional staff to deal with customer comments – one is still working on the Traveline service.
They added: “Customer satisfaction is important to us and we continue to monitor all comments to identify specific problems and where possible make service improvements.
“Timetable changes on 3 January, and those planned in February, aim to further improve the punctuality and reliability of our services and to make sure the city-wide network is delivering for all.
“We regret any inconvenience caused to passengers since the launch of the new network.”
298 - total comments made in October
1,132 - comments made in November
409 - a single week’s worth of complaints in November
12,555 - people signed a petition calling for cuts to be reversed