South Yorkshire bus campaigners fear crucial vote on public control has been pushed back

Bus campaigners have reacted angrily to an apparent two-month delay over a crucial decision about the future of services.

By David Walsh
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 4:29 pm

They fear a vote on whether to bring buses back into public control has been pushed back from January to March.

The South Yorkshire Combined Authority was expected to decide the matter at a meeting on January 24.

WHAT HAVE CAMPAIGNERS SPOTTED?

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Campaigner Fran Postlethwaite, right, talks to a member of the public about bus services.

But just-released agenda papers indicate the vote will now be held in March.

Campaigners want public control over buses - ‘franchising’ - with decisions about routes, timetables, and prices ‘made in the interests of the public, not shareholders’.

Matthew Topham, of Better Buses for South Yorkshire, said: “The mayor’s own bus review recommended starting the investigation in June 2020. They delayed. The Government gave South Yorkshire another opportunity to start last summer. They delayed again.

WHAT STATE ARE BUS SERVICES IN?

Sheffield’s bus services are under scrutiny as never before.

“If South Yorkshire’s leaders think passengers can afford yet another delay, they clearly don’t have the first idea about the state of local services. They’re fiddling while Rome burns.

“I’ve met young families isolated for hours at bus stations due to cancelled buses, shop workers who see their first couple of hours’ pay each day spent before they even get home, older people who put off hospital appointments because the direct bus route has been axed.”

Read More

Read More
Major road closure in Sheffield city centre on track to be made permanent

Fran Postlethwaite, a passenger and campaigner in Barnsley, said: “We are living through a devastating cost-of-living crisis.

Campaigners say a letter released on November 26 signed by South Yorkshire Mayor, Dan Jarvis, and the leaders of the regions’ four councils, had committed to 'bringing forward proposals for the January MCA meeting to consider starting the formal process of investigating bus franchising as a way to deliver the service South Yorkshire needs’.

“Why are the region’s leaders leaving companies like First, who have committed to pay out regular dividends from 2022, in charge of our buses a moment longer than necessary?

Campaigners say a letter released on November 26 signed by South Yorkshire Mayor, Dan Jarvis, and the leaders of the regions’ four councils, had committed to 'bringing forward proposals for the January MCA meeting to consider starting the formal process of investigating bus franchising as a way to deliver the service South Yorkshire needs’.

Public control, the system used in London, means fares, routes and standards are set by local politicians, not private companies as is currently the case.

The Government requires local authorities to complete a three-step process before bringing buses into public control, also called franchising, starting by releasing a ‘notice of intent’ to investigate the change.

However, the agenda paper indicates no decision will be taken at the January meeting — instead, the Combined Authority has delayed a vote on a ‘notice of intent’ to March.

The move comes despite three of the local councils, Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham, passing motions calling for faster action on public control — with Doncaster due to debate a similar motion on Thursday.

HOW HAVE LOCAL LEADERS JUSTIFIED THE DELAY?

Local leaders justified the delay saying it gave them time to consider the ‘significant operational challenges ahead’ caused by a poor recovery in passenger numbers, resulting from Omicron, and reductions in the Government’s COVID-support grant for bus services.

However, campaigners have claimed the delay is part of a pattern and leave bus passengers ‘at the mercy of private companies’.

A coalition of activists including bus passengers, Unite, Community, Burngreave Clean Air Campaign and the South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, will be holding a protest outside the Combined Authority from 9am on Monday January 24.

To continue holding the powerful to account and giving people a voice, The Star needs you to subscribe, please.