Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts criticised a decision not to hand the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) the funding through its Bus Service Improvement plan which would have resulted in a fare cap, new hi-tech shelters and free travel for under 18s.
The ambitious plan to overhaul services was rejected by Transport Secretary Grant Shapp. It also included proposals for a new fleet of electric buses and bus priority measures.
Mr Betts said Sheffield and South Yorkshire’s public transport system was in a ‘vicious cycle’ of cuts and extra funding was needed from Westminster.
He also said that ‘sustained cuts and lack of attention’ on the sector has left it ‘incredibly demoralised and neglected’ at a time where public transport as a whole is in ‘freefall’ from a ‘lack of any long-term guiding vision or plan’ from Westminster’.
Despite South Yorkshire receiving a setttlement package to renew Supertram beyond 2024, the region did not receive any money in a seperate bid for bus improvements.
The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.
Betts said: “Urban transport for Sheffield and city regions across the country can have a transformative effect. It has the ability to unleash huge economic potential by allowing commuters more access to workplaces, jobseekers the ability to find new employment and quick access to cities and their surrounding areas.
“Right now, we are in a vicious cycle wherein cuts precipitate a fall in passengers for public transport which results in more cuts.
“We urgently need to reverse that trend otherwise there will simply be no need to even look at a timetable, because there will be no buses running.
“We cannot take the Conservatives seriously if they refuse to invest and support urban transport. Sheffield has been crying out for more capital to invest in the bus network alongside a campaign to expand our tram network which is long overdue when looking at places like Manchester and what they’ve done.
“All this falls on deaf ears though as it seems this Government is more interested in slogans than actual policy to change urban transport for this country.”
The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings said the decision could have a secondary affect on criminal activity.
“This decision by central government to turn down the bid from South Yorkshire is both inexplicable and potentially dangerous,” he said.
“It is inexplicable because improving transport across the county is a key component for economic development and levelling up. To give nothing at all gives the lie to any claim that levelling up is a serious aim of government. It clearly isn’t.
“It is also potentially dangerous. South Yorkshire is not a wealthy area and if people cannot get to work because transport is so poor or expensive or non-existent that is a disaster.
“I am especially concerned for the young. Poverty does not make people criminal, but if young people are denied the possibility of accessing training or work because transport is inadequate, expensive or not there at all, some will be tempted by the chance of ‘easy money’ which the criminal gangs hand out.
“This decision has implications that go beyond transport itself. They are handing the gangs more opportunities to draw people into their networks of drug dealing. I urge the government to think again.”