South Yorkshire leaders welcome the extended bus fare cap announcement but call for more investment
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The government yesterday confirmed that the temporary £2 bus fare cap in England (excluding London) had been extended until October 31 and when it runs out a new cap at £2.50 will be introduced which will be in place until November 2024.
The scheme is reportedly paid by the government’s £500m funding and Transport Secretary Mark Harper confirmed an additional “£300 million to protect vital routes and improve services until 2025”.
Cllr Chris Read, the council leader at RMBC, welcomed the decision but added further investment in the local bus services was vital as the proposed amount was 25% less than it was reportedly needed to maintain the current level (of service).
Cllr Read told the Local Democracy Service: “Following well over a year in which local bus services have been cut and operators have faced incredible uncertainty, this is welcome news and at least a step in the right direction.
“Sadly, across the country over the last year 1,000 bus services were axed while the Conservative government failed to provide sustained funding and passenger numbers have recovered slowly in the wake of the pandemic.
“Passengers I’m sure will appreciate the extension of the £2 fare cap that was first introduced locally by South Yorkshire’ Mayor. More important, however, is a longer term commitment to funding to support services through 2025, something we have been campaigning for.
“The devil as always will be in the detail – it is nearly 25% less money than the Confederation of Passenger Transport recently said was necessary to maintain services at current levels, and the distribution across the country will also make the difference in terms of what we can expect to see locally.”
A senior leader at Barnsley Council also welcomed the extension but added they were still looking to hear about a “long-term” plan in the region.
Matt O’Neill, Executive Director of Growth and Sustainability at Barnsley Council, said: “The £2 bus fare cap is welcome in terms of helping residents during the current cost of living crisis.
“Buses are essential in connecting our most isolated residents, getting people to and from work, and our young people into school.
“It is clear, however, that Barnsley and South Yorkshire as a whole, needs proper, well-planned, long-term investment from the government to make buses accessible, reliable and more affordable for our communities.”
As reported yesterday by the Local Democracy Service, South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard labelled short-term extensions as “a sticking plaster”.
Mr Coppard added yesterday’s announcement does nothing to fix that fundamental problem.
He said: “Repeated, short-term extensions to bus funding are at best a sticking plaster, preventing our bus system from bleeding out.
“I believe that the root of our problem is the decision to take buses out of public control nearly forty years ago; a problem our communities desperately want us to fix.”
The bus fare cap will be next reviewed before it runs out in November 2024.