Sheffield MP hails the Star's FreeBee bus campaign and calls for 'really detailed look' into bringing it back

Sheffield MP Clive Betts has hailed a campaign for a new FreeBee bus in the city centre saying it could be a 'really beneficial service'.
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The return of a free service linking key areas every few minutes was worth a ‘really detailed look’, he added.

The Star is calling for a return of the FreeBee to give downtrodden bus passengers a lift. Users, many elderly or of limited mobility, were the big losers after Pinstone and Leopold streets were closed last summer to allow social distancing, and stops moved further out. The changes are set to be made permanent under the £10m Connecting Sheffield plan promoting ‘active travel’.

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Mr Betts, who is chairing an independent review of bus travel in South Yorkshire, said: “I think it would be entirely sensible to look at better services to get in and around the city centre.

Clive Betts MP.Clive Betts MP.
Clive Betts MP.

“Connecting Sheffield has some good ideas for removing obstacles in the central area, which can delay buses for up to an hour. But helping people, particularly those who are less mobile, should be given really serious consideration.”

A free service had to be compared with other things you could do with the money, he added.

The Green party, which says an electric FreeBee has been in their budget proposals for the last three years, has costed it at £427,000-a-year, plus £1,080,000 to buy three new, electric vehicles.

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Mr Betts added: “You have to listen to bus users and those who would use them. It’s worth having a really detailed look, I think it could be a really beneficial service.”

Users, businesses and opposition parties, including the Lib Dems, are calling for the FreeBee’s return.

They say it could help compensate for the closure of streets which led to 27 services being re-routed and stops shifted a quarter of a mile out. The controversial move has deterred many at a time when the city centre is attempting to bounce back, it is claimed.

The old FreeBee had three buses providing a seven-minute frequency. It ran for seven years to 2014 before being axed by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to save money.

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The bus review, commissioned by city region mayor Dan Jarvis, is looking at ‘all options’ for improving services.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.