Sheffield public could be asked to keep tabs on bus companies

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TRANSPORT bosses spearheading Sheffield’s new bus partnership have been urged to take steps to ensure operators keep their promises of better services.

Members of the public could be involved in monitoring improvements to vehicles and reliability pledged by bus companies, under proposals discussed at a council meeting.

Questions over how Sheffield Council and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive planned to keep tabs on the firms’ performance were raised at a council meeting.

Members of council’s economic and environmental scrutiny committee made the call for monitoring of services as members voted to back the partnership, due to be introduced next month, as they opted out of taking back complete control of the city’s buses under an alternative Quality Contract scheme.

The meeting heard how Quality Contracts would pose some financial risk to the PTE, should operators choose to make a legal challenge against the idea.

But the transport executive did not rule out the possibility of introducing Quality Contracts if operators First, Stagecoach, TM Travel and Sheffield Community Transport fail to make improvements agreed in the bargain.

Councillors suggested using modern technology or passenger groups such as Sheffield on the Move - a local forum for public transport users - to monitor the progress of the agreement.

Lib Dem opposition leader, Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, said: “What are we doing in terms of using technology? I have a mobile phone which tells me where I am at this moment. We have monitoring equipment which could allow you to hold bus firms to account rather than relying on the bus companies.”

Coun Ian Auckland. Lib Dem transport spokesman, added: “I think bus users could be swept up into getting involved. There needs to be some thought over how that could be taken forward. When I suggested involving Sheffield on the Move, the leader of the council gave a positive response.”

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We will look at how to involve the public in how to monitor the contract. Sheffield on the Move seems a good option but we will have to look at that. This is the best thing for Sheffield and I hope people will support it.”

The committee cast a majority vote to support the Sheffield Bus Agreement, to the disappointment of some members.

Green Party Coun Rob Murphy, who represents Central Ward, said: “This is a backwards step for public transport in Sheffield. We need to take back control, penalise poor service and run buses for passengers again not just profits.”