Fare deal as bus rivals work together

Buses High Street . 120 and 40 buses in High Street.
Buses High Street . 120 and 40 buses in High Street.
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BUS wars between rival operators in Sheffield are over - meaning passengers will soon be able to use any service with the same ticket.

First and Stagecoach have agreed to scrap their head-to-head policy by which each company tries to out-do the other with cheaper fares and extra frequency - while less profitable routes have seen services cut.

The arrangement will start on services between Halfway and Fulwood, but is set to be expanded across the city.

Currently, passengers on routes where there is heavy competition have to choose one operator’s buses over the other’s in order to take advantage of cheap daily and weekly tickets.

Passengers sometimes have to wait for their chosen bus, while two or three rival services pass by.

But David Young, director of customer experience at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: “Fighting against each other is counter-productive.

“We hope the arrangement will demonstrate to the operators that by them working together we will be able to make buses more attractive and grow the market.”

Bus passengers have welcomed the changes.

Retired engineer James Bowles, of Lodge Moor, said: “I can see how the changes will help people.”

Student Nyma Masood, 21, of Fulwood: “It makes sense that you will be able to use either company’s buses with the same tickets.”

Fellow student Michaela Petrosjamova, 16, of Lodge Moor, added: “It’s a good idea because you won’t have to wait for the right company’s bus to turn up for your ticket.”

And Tegann Richardson, 16, also a student, of Crosspool, said: “It’ll save people having to hang around at the bus stop and will be an improvement.”

The new arrangement - called Optio Orange and initially involving only the routes between Halfway and Fulwood - starts from Sunday, July 24.

Mr Young added there will also be more frequent evening journeys on routes affected by the change - and that some buses would also be ‘freed-up’ to provide extra capacity elsewhere.

The change is being trialled as an alternative to proposals for a Bus Quality Contracts scheme in Sheffield, under which SYPTE would take control of routes, timetables and fares, and invite private firms to bid to run them.

The contracts could take up to two years to turn into a reality - and could face a challenge in the courts from either of the current operators.

“The new partnership will provide 95 per cent of the benefits of quality contracts but can be implemented immediately and we hope to be able to roll it out across the city,” Mr Young said.

Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First, said: “We are delighted to have worked with SYPTE to develop this new and innovative arrangement.”

Paul Lynch, managing director of Stagecoach Yorkshire, added: “This new partnership will deliver improvements for customers including increased frequencies, more choice and better co-ordination of timetables.”