South Yorkshire leaders plead with Government and operators over buses

Mayor Dan Jarvis and South Yorkshire’s four council leaders have penned a joint letter warning the Government’s ‘failure’ to extend financial support for public transport will lead to ‘devastating’ consequences for the bus system.

Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 12:14 pm

They warn it is ‘sentencing passengers to fare rises and service cuts’ at a time when the buses are already ‘on life support’.

And it ‘directly undermines’ the transformational change Government and operators say they want – hamstringing efforts to get people back on the buses and instead recklessly locking in the damage Covid has done.

WHAT TWO THINGS ARE LEADERS MOST CONCERNED ABOUT?

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The mayor Dan Jarvis and South Yorkshire’s four council leaders have penned a joint letter warning the government’s ‘failure’ to extend financial support for public transport will lead to ‘devastating’ consequences for the bus system.

The statement adds: “Passenger numbers are still well below pre-pandemic levels, and we understand that creates genuine pressures. But with Covid-19 cases still very high, and work from home mandates only just lifted, assumptions about the prospects for a full recovery are premature – and rushing to hike fares and cut services now will guarantee there will not be one.”

It also urges operators to minimise cuts.

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It adds: “The operators received millions in public subsidy to keep them afloat during the pandemic. The least they owe the people of South Yorkshire is to work in good faith to delay and minimise cuts as far as possible, to allow a managed approach and give people a chance to return to public transport.

“Failure to do so will only add to concerns about the deregulated system, call into question the worth of newly negotiated Enhanced Partnerships, and reinforce the case for examining franchising as an alternative.

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT BEING ‘RECKLESS’?

“The Government made the ‘central aim’ of their National Bus Strategy ‘to get overall patronage back to its pre-Covid 19 level, and then to exceed it’. In practice, they are recklessly pulling the rug from under the recovery, and with it the contribution buses could make to supporting our economies, cutting carbon emissions and promoting inclusion. They’ve added fuel to the fire by reneging on a promise to invest £3bn in improving services, diverting much of it to pay for emergency COVID support.

“Instead of fuelling decline, we ask Government and operators to work with us on a strategy to manage the challenges we face and avoid long-term harm. That means Government needs to fully fund the plans we set out in our Bus Service Improvement Plan. It means the operators need to look beyond their most immediate bottom line, and help us deliver a fare cap, free travel for under 18s, and millions of pounds of investment in new green buses and route improvements. But all those plans will be sabotaged if they allow South Yorkshire’s bus services to fall off a cliff edge in a few weeks’ time.

“We are fighting for a better, brighter future for South Yorkshire’s buses. We’re investing our local resources to make it happen, but we can’t realise the transformation we need if government and operators do not do their bit. If they walk away at this critical moment, they will bear responsibility for the consequences.”

It is signed by Dan Jarvis MP, South Yorkshire Mayor; Coun Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council; Mayor Ros Jones, Leader of Doncaster Council; Coun Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council and Coun Terry Fox, Leader of Sheffield City Council.

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