Tickets scheme leads to rise in bus passengers

52 bus in Church Street
52 bus in Church Street
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BUS passenger levels have grown strongly on routes in Sheffield with shared ticketing and service arrangements between operators – against an overall decline across South Yorkshire which officials believe is down to the poor state of the economy.

Figures released by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) show the total journeys made in the 12 months to March 2011 was 109 million, down 0.75 per cent from 110 million in 2009/10.

County-wide statistics for the current financial year are not yet available. But SYPTE said that during the last three months to January 2012, there has been ‘significant’ passenger growth on Sheffield’s two routes covered by the Optio scheme, on which First and Stagecoach share operations and accept each other’s tickets.

On the ‘red’ corridor – the 52 route between Woodhouse, Darnall, the city centre, Crookes and Hillsborough – there were 5.16 per cent more journeys made than in the same period a year ago. The ‘orange’ routes, between Halfway and Fulwood, saw a 1.9 per cent growth.

Shared ticketing arrangements were backed by people living along the routes.

Rahat Esmail, aged 22, finance officer for Darnall Forum, said: “It certainly makes life easier, especially when coming back from town in a hurry – you don’t have to wait for a particular company’s bus.”

Howard Fry, secretary of Broomhill Forum, served by both the 120 and 52, said: “I think it’s an excellent initiative.

“We are campaigning for cleaner air in our suburb, so getting more people onto buses is part of that.”

Marie McCarthy, who runs an events company and lives in Crookes, said it is a ‘very good idea’ to be able to buy tickets for use on either operator’s buses.

But she said some 52 buses should terminate in Crookes to improve reliability, because fewer passengers use the Crookes to Hillsborough end of the route and buses then get caught in jams around Hillsborough Interchange.

David Young, SYPTE director of customer experience, said: “The overall slight fall in bus patronage is probably in part down to the continuing problems with the economy, but we are very encouraged by the amount of growth on the Optio red and orange corridors.

“Although we recognise there were issues to begin with around the scheme, it shows that the arrangements we have put in place are what passengers want.”

He said that between 2009/10 and 2010/11, there was also a 3 per cent decline in car journeys around South Yorkshire.

Mr Young said discussions are ongoing with operators about expanding the Optio scheme across Sheffield in September this year.