South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis launches scathing attack at First and Stagecoach on planned bus cuts and fare rises

South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis has launched a scathing attack on bus providers criticising their recent decisions over a rise in fares and cuts to services.

In a letter to Janette Bell, managing director of First Bus and Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach, Mayor Jarvis urges them to reconsider recent decisions which affect bus operations in the region.

The mayor said the operators were ‘hiking fares and slashing services at the earliest possible moment’ which was harming the recovery of bus patronage in light of the Covid pandemic.

Both First and Stagecoach have been contacted for comment.

Dan Jarvis.

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The mayor did add that a central government decision not to continue subsidies bus operators for losses during Covid was ‘utterly reckless’ but it was time to ‘give something back’ and cancel the planned cuts after receiving millions in support.

Mayor Jarvis urged both operators to act more in partnership with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) ‘to take some responsibility for the wider health of public transport which you say you support’ which is ‘implied’ in the consultation towards an Enhanced Partnership.

Mayor Jarvis said: “Operators appear to be acting according to one concern only: their short-term bottom line. You are rushing to cuts even as Covid rates remain high and many people are still working from home.

Buses.

“Rather than maximising the chances of a full recovery in passenger numbers, by hiking fares and slashing services at the earliest possible moment you are guaranteeing that recovery will not happen – locking in damage from Covid that might otherwise have been temporary.

If we want to realise the potential of our buses, this is strategic short-sightedness of the worst kind.

I understand the genuine pressures operators are under – as indeed are our communities and the travelling public. The government’s failure so far to extend Covid support for bus services is utterly reckless, as is their reneging on wider promises of transformative investment. Along with other regional mayors, I’ve made those points to government in no uncertain terms.

“But let’s not forget that your company received millions of pounds of subsidy to keep services running – at a profit – during lockdown. I am not asking companies to bankrupt themselves operating at a loss indefinitely, but the least South Yorkshire has a right to expect is that you reduce cuts and fare rises to the minimum as we get back to normal, even if that means reduced profits or even a short term loss.

“It is time to give something back – and that means cancelling the changes that are currently being planned.”