South Yorkshire bus services ‘facing horrible cuts’, leaders warn

South Yorkshire leaders criticised the government for allocating them only “about half of what we need” to protect bus services that are already on ‘its knees’.
South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard has used £2m of his mayoral budget to restore bus services in Sheffield and South YorkshireSouth Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard has used £2m of his mayoral budget to restore bus services in Sheffield and South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard has used £2m of his mayoral budget to restore bus services in Sheffield and South Yorkshire

In a meeting at South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) yesterday, the public was warned that the region’s bus services were “facing horrible cuts”.

The authority has proposed to increase the child concessionary fare (for those aged under 18) on bus and tram journeys from 80p per trip to £1 per trip with effect from November 1, 2023, and to remove the discretionary concessionary fare for persons aged 18 to 21(Zoom Beyond) on bus and tram journeys with effect from November 1, 2023.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Also, the plan was to continue the fare cap on tram services in South Yorkshire (funded locally by the MCA) through to October 31, 2023, at £2.00, rising to £2.80 for around one year from November 1, 2023, until the end of November 2024.

Cllr Chris Read, the leader of Rotherham Council, said in order to protect the bus network they had to make some “really difficult decisions” where they spent public money locally.

He said: “I think I said it every time we’d bring an item on bus(es) but I keep saying in the hope that it gets reported widely, which is that the bus network is under incredible pressure as a result of two things.

“One is that there are fewer people using buses after Covid. Whilst the number of people using buses is still increasing, it’s increasing slowly.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The second one is that the government has just not put enough money in to enable us to continue to run services at the price that they had been at. There is not enough government money in the system.

“That is the issue that drives us to have to make some choices.”

Cllr Read added the message of the meeting was that without these difficult choices, there would be “a lot more communities facing cuts to routes, buses that aren’t coming back, less frequent services, buses stopping earlier in the evening or not running at the weekends”.

“That would put us in a really difficult position because once those buses are gone, they just don’t come back again”, he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Cllr Steve Houghton, the leader of Barnsley Council, said they had to make a point that “if it wasn’t for the successful financial management of the MCA, this position would be even worse”.

He said: “Protecting the network has got to be the first priority – there is little point in having benefits in other ways if you haven’t got a bus turning up.”

He added the priority was to keep the buses on the road.

Cllr Tom Hunt, the leader of Sheffield City Council, added the Department of Transport (DfT) allocated the MCA £3.1million of bus funding which “is around 50 per cent of the previous” grant funding settlements.

“That is the reality there – we’re getting about half of what we need in order to keep the network running in the way we wanted to”, he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A report shows that the DfT allocated the MCA £3.1m of funding for 2023/24 which is expected to repeat in 2024/25, which is, as Cllr Hunt said, around 50 per cent of previous grant funding settlements.

The report continues: “Combining this with local transport funding from the transport levy, reserve releases agreed at the January 2023 MCA Board, and a Treasury management surplus, it provides a total of around £17m of funding to protect bus services and concessionary discounts as far as possible.”

It says: “The MCA’s £6.3m allocation of BSIP+ to South Yorkshire is considerably lower than the BSIP and BSIP+ allocations seen elsewhere in England, some of which are in excess of £100m.

“As such, South Yorkshire’s ability to adequately protect bus services from further cuts is significantly compromised.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard added these were “an appalling set of choices we’ve been asked to make right now”.

He added the reality was that these were “no choices at all”.

He said: “We’re still facing horrific cuts to bus services across South Yorkshire – a service which was already on its knees will be cut even further.”

The board has accepted the recommendations set out in the report.