Sheffield buses: Council leader calls emergency meeting with First and Stagecoach to demand cuts are reversed
Council chiefs in Sheffield have blasted operators over cuts to bus services and called an emergency meeting to demand they are reversed.
Councillor Terry Fox, Sheffield City Council leader, said he wanted to push home the anger and disappointment over disruption due to driver shortages.
Bus operator First cut 89 journeys on Wednesday alone, a week-long strike at Stagecoach is due to start on Sunday, there have been a ‘series of other service changes’ over the last few months, and further service reductions are expected by First in January.
The changes had impacted journey times and capacity making it more difficult for residents and visitors to get around the city, said Coun Fox.
What has happened to bus services in Sheffield?
He said: “Reducing the timetable just as we move into winter and the run up to Christmas is simply not good enough and will leave many people struggling to travel around the city at one of the busiest times of the year.
“I’ve called for an emergency meeting with the South Yorkshire Mayor, SYPTE, and transport providers to really push home the level of anger and disappointment felt out there.
“I will also demand that operators return to, as a minimum, the services operated at before these recent changes. A reduction in services like this cannot be accepted as the new normal. It’s simply not good enough.
“Sheffield Council has worked tirelessly alongside our regional partners to get the government to cough-up £100m for the Supertram network, and we are steadfast in our commitment to the network - but we need providers to step up and deliver a service that meets the city’s needs.
‘We need to see Stagecoach’s plan for fixing this. We will do whatever we can to the support them, and we understand the pressure they’re under, but they need to up their game and get on top of this quickly, we cannot be in this position.
How much money has First had?
“It’s the same with our buses - it is deeply frustrating to be in this position after 18 months when unprecedented public money has gone to operators, including over £20m to First alone.
“The council has supported the Mayoral Combined Authority to provide major resources into reviving passenger numbers, including committing millions for fare concessions and the ongoing transformation of the network.
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“Whatever the challenges facing operators, a rush to cut services seriously calls into question their commitment to the city.
“Whilst we must acknowledge the driver shortages it is abundantly clear that the Government has fuelled this situation – due to the ongoing uncertainty over recovery funding and lack of long-term investment plans.
“Frankly, the system is broken and not delivering for Sheffield. This is why we repeatedly called for the Mayor to start the formal process of investigating bus franchising as a way to deliver the service South Yorkshire needs, and I’m glad that this is now making progress.
“But more immediately we need some cast iron guarantees from providers about when services return properly, and we will seeking to get these at our emergency meeting."