Bus passengers in Sheffield launch petition against 'unacceptable' service

Bus passengers in Sheffield have launched a petition calling for urgent improvements to the ‘unacceptable’ service on two busy routes.

By Robert Cumber
Tuesday, 06 August, 2019, 15:26

Regular users of the number 97 and 98 buses between Hillsborough and Totley, via Sheffield city centre, say they are fed up with buses arriving late and frequently failing to turn up at all, and they claim tickets are overpriced compared with similar services.

Customers are particularly unhappy at First’s decision to reduce the frequency of each service from every 20 minutes to half-hourly from next month, though the operator says this will improve reliability and there will still be a 97 or 98 bus every 15 minutes on the shared parts of the two routes, which only deviate slightly.

Sudir Narraidoo (left) and fellow bus users who are demanding improvements to what they say is an 'unacceptable' service on routes 97 and 98

More than 50 people living in Totley and Millhouses have signed a petition which states: “We find this very poor service unacceptable. We demand that it is improved and returned to its former state.”

Sudir Narraidoo, a writer who commutes by bus each day between his home near Dore & Totley station and the city centre, claims that for every person who signed the petition there are ‘probably 10 more who are equally dissatisfied’.

He believes that if First fails to improve the service, another operator should be allowed to take over the routes – possibly TM Travel, whose number 218 service from Bakewell to Sheffield city centre he says is much more reliable and punctual.

“It’s really not good enough. We’re in an urban area of Sheffield with a lot of people who rely on the bus,” he said.

“I talked to a woman the other day who said she’d had to wait for an hour and 10 minutes for a bus to arrive.

“To reduce the frequency to every 30 minutes, which is like having a Sunday service throughout the week, is unacceptable.

“The £3 First charges to get from Totley to the city centre is more than the £2 it costs for the same journey with TM or the £2.50 you have to pay to get from Bradway to the city centre with Stagecoach, and the high price is putting people off using the bus.

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“If First cannot improve the service, then it may be better if another operator is allowed to take over the routes.”

A major overhaul of bus services in the region was announced last month, with around a quarter of services being affected, 15 being rerouted or replaced by alternatives and two being withdrawn.

Announcing the changes, which will take effect from September, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) said the network was ‘under pressure’ and it ‘simply can't afford to retain the same level of service’.

The cuts come as a bus review launched by Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis and chaired by MP Clive Betts is underway, with one option being to franchise services, giving local authorities more control over routes, fare and standards.

Allan Riggall, First South Yorkshire’s commercial director, said: “We’re sorry to note the comments from Mr Narraidoo.

“The 97/98 is an important bus service providing cross-city connections that has been impacted by worsening congestion particularly around key areas of Hillsborough and Abbeydale Road.

“Our actions in September include extra running time on services including the 97/98 and 75/76 to tackle traffic delays and improve punctuality for customers. The changes are part of an overall network review which will see the 97/98 service operate every 15 mins on common parts of the route as well as a frequency increase on the 75/76 service due to demand.

“We offer a range of very good value tickets, for example the day ticket at £4 (via mobile), which is still 50p cheaper than the day ticket in 2007!

“The £4 day mTicket effectively provides a return trip at £2 each way or can be used on unlimited First Bus Sheffield trips across the whole day.”

A copy of the petition has been sent to Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore and Dan Jarvis, among others.

Responding to his letter, Ms Dore said the council believes the best way to get a better bus service for the city is through re-regulation.