TRANSPORT Minister Norman Baker has revealed Sheffield’s buses could receive a further £8.5 million cash windfall – as he was tackled by a feisty pensioner unhappy about service changes.
The Lib Dem minister was in the city to witness the signing of the Sheffield Bus Agreement, under which operators have promised to work together to make improvements and offer cheaper tickets which can be used on all services.
But Mary Foden, from Fulwood, was unhappy about one of many service changes that have been introduced under the agreement.
She was angry at buses on service 120 to Fulwood start from Halfway and Crystal Peaks rather than the city centre, meaning they are now often affected by delays.
Mrs Foden also criticised a decision to move stops in the city centre, meaning a longer walk to the rail station.
Interrupting Mr Baker’s speech praising the ‘historic’ bus agreement – the largest of its kind in the country – the pensioner, who catches the 120, said: “Excuse me but signs were put up saying services were being improved.
“The service is appalling.”
Mrs Foden continued to speak despite repeated attempts by Mr Baker to answer. She claimed letters to bus companies and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive had been ‘ignored’.
Mr Baker eventually replied: “You have an audience of people who run the buses and local councillors who are signing a partnership which will improve services.”
The minister revealed the Government is ‘working to iron out the creases’ in a bid by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive for a further £1.7 million a year of funding for buses over the next five years.
The cash would be on top of the bus operators’ fuel rebate worth £5 million each year, which is being protected and paid to the PTE under Sheffield’s City Deal agreement.
In other areas, the fuel rebate is being cut.
Mr Baker said: “I am very keen on making sure the bid is a success. We are currently working to iron out the creases. I am making sure there is proper investment in public transport and, as a Liberal Democrat, that it is spread fairly around the country not just in the south east.”
David Brown, director general of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: “Our bid for the extra £1.7 million of cash each year is being considered by the Government from its Better Buses Fund.
“We hope to be granted the cash in recognition of creating the country’s largest bus partnership and, if successful, it will be used to create better services.
“Specific details of how we would spend the money have yet to be decided.”
SYPTE said comments and complaints about services have been at ‘roughly the same level’ over the last three months indicating no major problems with route changes.
Some 60 million bus journeys are made around Sheffield each year and operators First and Stagecoach said they are confident that the agreement will help the figure to grow.