BUSES: Sheffield operators will be ‘held to account’ after cuts ‘disaster’ is debated

Bus timetable and route changes cause chaos for travellers in Sheffield'Picture Dean Atkins
Bus timetable and route changes cause chaos for travellers in Sheffield'Picture Dean Atkins
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Firms running Sheffield buses will go under scrutiny over the reliability, capability and capacity of services after a public outcry over ‘disastrous’ changes that have made Sheffield a ‘laughing stock.’

Coun Terry Fox, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for transport, told today’s full council meeting that he agreed the city’s current bus situation was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘not what we were promised from the start.’

He was speaking after a petition of 12,384 signatures triggered a public debate.

Coun Fox said he had met with bus firms shortly before the council meeting and they had agreed to put on an extra five double deckers and 12 buses into the network.

He is referring the matter back to a meeting of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee - which agreed the cuts in September - for ‘open and frank public scrutiny’ in February.

Bus operators will attend and the meeting will consider whether they have met a public test over reliability, capability, capacity and patronage.

Coun Fox said: “I do have to say that we do not run the buses. We do not do the timetables, we don’t do the networking - but does that mean we then sit on our hands and do nothing now?

“It means that we roll up our sleeves and hold these people who are running a public service to account.”

After the meeting, the council said that other changes to come in January would include 30 extra double deckers and a £75,000 investment in frequency.

Labour councillors stressed Government cuts to bus service subsidies were a cause but opposition representatives insisted the administraion should not have agreed changes as part of the Sheffield Bus Partnership and action was needed now.

Ecclesall Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, a Liberal Democrat, said: “The Star described these changes as chaos - I would probably use the word disaster because that is what they have been.”

Beauchief Coun Richard Shaw, referencing a spoof Hitler video about the cuts which has been watched by thousands online, said that ‘Sheffield is now a laughing stock.’

Council leader Julie Dore admitted consultation could have been better but it was ‘how we deal with the mistake that we need to address.’

Residents were urged to inform their councillors of how bus changes were impacting on their lives by Nether Edge Coun Nikki Bond, one of several councillors to read out hard-hitting comments from residents.

Central Green Coun Rob Murphy suggested that the largest public petition presented be sent to the transport minister, which was seconded.

When asked to respond to the council’s motion for action, petition presenter Andy Nash said: “These cuts should not have gone ahead as planned without further consultation.”