Environment: South Yorkshire Groups unite to demand better buses from the Department for Transport
Groups from South Yorkshire taking part in a picket outside the department include Better Buses for South Yorkshire, South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, Kids Plant Trees, Extinction Rebellion Sheffield and Sheffield Green Parents.
The action is part of The Big One, which is taking place from April 21st to 24th and will bring together many of the UK’s environmental groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Climate Reality Project, The Landworkers’ Alliance and Rewilding Britain.
Groups from South Yorkshire are focussed on the Department for Transport following the sustained campaigning by the local group ‘Better Buses for South Yorkshire’, which aims to bring bus services back under public control and create comprehensive and cheap travel which is good for people and the planet.
Fran Postlethwaite, convener of Better Buses for South Yorkshire group, said: “Public transport is an essential contributor to help us meet the climate emergency but buses in South Yorkshire and across the UK are in crisis. Underfunding and privatisation have ruined a service which should be run for the benefit of the public, not to service the needs of shareholders.
“Better Buses South Yorkshire is joining with other groups to call on the Department for Transport to give our bus services the funding they need and to end the scandal of privatisation. People need a system that is reliable and affordable so they no longer feel the need for private transport.”
According to the national charity ‘Campaign for Better Transport’, public and mass transport is a key strategy for reducing carbon emissions. Many European cities are now offering entirely free or very cheap public transport which is frequent, reliable and safe to encourage people out of cars and reduce pollution.
Indeed, the UK government has its own strategy called ‘Bus Back Better’, launched in 2020 which announced an intention to transform bus services with simpler fares, improved routes and higher frequencies. However, at a local level this strategy is not translating into better services, with 45 services in South Yorkshire axed last October, and more cuts are expected this year.
More than 3,000 people have signed a petition to take South Yorkshire’s buses back into public control. To sign go to https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/take-south-yorkshire-s-buses-into-public-control. Those outside the Department for Transport aim to press the government to do better.
Steph Howlett, from Nether Edge, said: “We have to cut carbon emissions more quickly, so I find it hard to understand why our government is licensing more oil and gas exploration and squandering billions of pounds on building roads instead of investing in public transport services which would benefit everybody, and reduce emissions and pollution.
“The severity of the climate and biodiversity crises are common knowledge now, and we are seeing the evidence all the time as the world’s glaciers and polar ice-caps melt, winter snow recedes, and climate disasters are becoming more common around the world.
“I can feel haunted by fear and sadness as the acceleration of these crises become ever more apparent, contributing to countless deaths of people and wildlife and the mass extinction of species worldwide. There are so many examples that nowadays they barely hit the headlines – floods, wildfires, hurricanes, droughts and famine. This destruction is not just something we’ll be facing at some time in the future. It’s happening now!
“I am old enough that I won’t be alive to face the worst that’s coming our way. But when I think about the world the young children of today are likely to face in the course of their lives it can feel completely overwhelming. We owe it to future generations to do everything we can to mitigate what is happening and steer our communities and our world in a different direction. And that’s why I am going to The Big One, and to the Department for Transport, to put pressure on the government to change course and invest in a better future.”
The weekend’s protests and events follow the release of the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s report which implores national governments to act swiftly to reduce emissions. Levels of atmospheric CO2 are still climbing steeply. In 2013 they were 400 parts per million (PPM) but in 2022 emissions had climbed to 420 PPM and are now at 422 PPM.
Meanwhile low emission technologies are now more affordable, with many low or zero emissions options available for transport, which have multiple benefits such as less health risks through less pollution, as well as less emission.
Geoff Cox, Chair of the South Yorkshire Climate Alliance said: “We know that about a third of our carbon emissions come from current modes of transport, so we need to invest heavily and fast in alternatives. Clean, reliable and affordable buses are an inevitable part of that mix, tempting drivers out of their cars and freeing up space for cycling and walking. To cut carbon emissions we must invest in buses.”