Anger at changes to bus services

Buses on Sheffield's High Street
Buses on Sheffield's High Street
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A WAR of words broke out between members of the public and councillors when a committee met to discuss Sheffield’s new bus partnership.

Passengers who feared they would lose out in alterations to services voiced their anger at a special meeting of Sheffield Council’s economic and environmental wellbeing scrutiny committee.

Accusations of a poor consultation process were thrown as councillors gathered to debate Sheffield’s planned partnership agreement - under which operators would work together voluntarily to provide better services.

Opposition Lib Dem councillors argued that alternative Quality Contracts, under which South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive would control services and put them out to tender, would be better.

Among members of the public who attended were Shirecliffe residents who feared the 72 route through their estate was to be axed under the changes.

Keith Johnson, a regular user of the number 72, said: “We have not been consulted properly.”

Many angry passengers walked out of the Sheffield Town Hall meeting room after shouting at councillors - before the meeting heard the 72 would be reprieved but only for a 12-month trial basis under the partnership scheme.

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for transport, said the partnership, rather than Quality Contracts, was chosen because it ‘reduces financial risk’.

Operator Stagecoach had threatened legal action if transport authorities opted to ‘take away their business’ and impose Quality Contracts.

Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, committee chair, said: “We’ve got to do something to make improvements.”

Despite concerns raised, the committee voted to agree to sign the Sheffield Bus Partnership and it will be launched next month.

Lib Dems fear the partnership will not do enough to oblige bus firms to improve services - but Labour accused them of hypocrisy because Lib Dem transport minister Norman Baker has spoken in favour of the partnership idea.