TRANSPORT bosses are planning to expand a scheme across the whole of Sheffield in which bus operators share the running of routes and offer tickets which can be used on any firm’s vehicles.
Currently, the Optio initiative involves ‘orange’ 120 services between Fulwood and Halfway, and a ‘red’ 52 route from Hillsborough to Woodhouse via Crookes.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and operators First and Stagecoach are proposing to run the scheme citywide from September.
Mick Jameson, chairman of the board of South Yorkshire councillors overseeing the PTE, said the idea is seen as a better alternative to ‘quality contracts’ for making improvements.
Quality contracts would have seen control of services taken out of bus companies’ control with the PTE setting routes, timetables and fares. But firms including Stagecoach threatened legal action against the move.
Coun Jameson said: “There would be some difficulties with legal challenges. But under the Optio scheme, we can work with operators to deliver much improved services.”
But Nick Howard of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group – whose members include a large number of bus users – called for existing problems to be resolved before the scheme is expanded.
He said: “I regularly use the 120 and there are problems with reliability. It’s meant to run every five minutes but you can be waiting 20 minutes and then three will turn up. Such problems need to be ironed out.”
An internal PTE email, seen by The Star, said: “Although we did receive complaints from customers following the launch of Optio Orange, these significantly reduced for Optio Red and we have learnt from these early phases. More positively, we have now also undertaken research along the red and orange corridors which shows improved patronage and satisfaction.”
David Young, SYPTE director of customer experience, said: “We are talking with operators about expanding the joint scheme.”