Sheffield’s bus operators have admitted they made mistakes when planning service changes that left hundreds of passengers stranded.
Bosses from Stagecoach, First and TM Travel answered questions from the public at a town hall meeting today (February 29), which had been called to address problems that have affected the city’s bus users since November.
They conceded the changes had not gone smoothly, but said reliability and punctuality had improved since routes were again altered earlier this year, following complaints and a debate at Sheffield Council.
Stagecoach Yorkshire managing director Paul Lynch said: “We acknowledge that the early days were bad. There were a lot of things that didn’t work as we had planned or wanted. It was worse than we wanted and expected.
“We have worked extremely hard in the short term to analyse the data and bring in all the changes that we have done.”
Addressing some of the complaints about lack of service in certain areas, Mr Lynch said: “Bus routes can’t serve everywhere. We have had a lot of complaints from people who wanted us to serve different parts of the city centre. If we agree to do that then we move the service away from somewhere else.”
City council transport planning officer Dick Proctor admitted the timing of the service changes could have been better.
“Traffic always build up in the lead up to Christmas. They weren’t the best conditions for any changes to be made,” he said.
According to data from the Sheffield Bus Partnership, punctuality and reliability are improving.
The partnership, which comprises the council, the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and four bus firms, said punctuality had increased by up to 15 per cent since timetables were revised earlier this year.
Pledging to try to improve people’s confidence in bus services, First South Yorkshire managing director Kevin Belfield said: “I won’t rest until I see all of the services improve.
“We do take customer confidence very, very seriously and I want to see it fully restored in the area.”
City councillor Ian Auckland said: “There is an issue about confidence in bus services in Sheffield which we have got to address.”
About 60 people packed into the town hall for the meeting, with more than a dozen asking questions of Sheffield’s bus operators.
Greenhill mum Joanne Lumley, who started a petition against the changes that got more than 12,000 signatures, told the meeting that things were ‘still nowhere near perfect’.
She asked what the rationale was behind decisions to reduce certain services and change certain routes.
And after the meeting she said: “It’s nothing we haven’t heard before.
“They are not listening and looking at the overall picture. People are still saying the same thing. The complaints might have gone down, but how many times do you have to complain before you get fed up?”
People from all over the city raised issues with individual bus services. The complaints were mostly about the loss of routes.
Mary Fraser, of Crabtree, near Burngreave, said the loss of the 83 and 83a meant people had to change buses to get along Burngreave Road.
Hazel Blackbourn said children in Shiregreen now had to walk the bulk of the way to Yewlands Academy because a bus route had been cut.
Annette Scott said she used to catch the 87 bus to work, but now she had to walk 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes back home.
“Sometimes I’m walking to work and I’m just soaked,” she said.
And Winnifred Stones, from Loxley, said: “We used to have quite a good bus service but now it it’s absolutely rubbish. We’ve got one bus an hour – if it turns up – on the 31 route.”
Maureen Scott, who also lives in Crabtree, said those making decisions should put themselves in the shoes of passengers.
“Have you ever got on the buses and found out the mess you have made of them?” she asked. “I think you ought to, and then you might understand what the people are complaining about.”
A report on bus services will be given to the council’s transport committee in the summer.