Bus fares for South Yorkshire children are still among the cheapest in the country despite a 10p increase that came into force this week.
The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which plans the region’s public transport and subsidises some tickets, brought in the new 80p single fare on Sunday.
The organisation says the increase is needed to help save £8.5 million after its budget was cut by 10 per cent. But Sheffield prices are still some of the lowest in the country.
SYPTE’s 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.
“We are always very keen to keep prices down and we work hard with our 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 the county 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 child day ticket is also available.
The ticket price compares favourably with 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 discounted 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 the 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. The transport body 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 £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.
“While 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 for tackling the capital city’s own urban traffic and transport problems.
But when the Conservative government abolished the GLC in 1986, the subsidy dried up and prices rose.
Some readers of The Star said they were comfortable with the price rise.
Nicola Beal said: “People should stop whinging about bus fares going up. What can you get for a pound these days?
“Think about how much it costs to run a bus, 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 fares 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 every day. I don’t think so.”
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