'Shocking' statistics show just £4 per head spent on buses in Sheffield, compared with £77 in London

The huge gulf between bus services in Sheffield and London is illustrated by 'shocking' new statistics.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 16:47 pm

Nearly 18 times as much public money per person is spent on buses in the capital as in the Sheffield City Region, figures highlighted by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts reveal.

Bus services within Sheffield and its nearest neighbours receive just £4.33 in central and local government funding per head, compared with £76.67 in London, according to the latest statistics for 2017/18 which he obtained from the House of Commons Library.

Mr Betts said: "The fact spending in London is so much higher than Sheffield and everywhere else in the country is one reason the bus network there works so much better.

Just £4.33 of public money per head is spent on buses in Sheffield each year, new figures show

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"I knew London got more money but the scale of the difference shocked me and it should shock everyone because it's completely unfair."

Mr Betts said huge investment in Sheffield and elsewhere in the north was needed to arrest the 'downward spiral' in bus services in the area, where passenger numbers have fallen by nearly a fifth during the last decade and numerous services have been cut, including many earlier this summer.

The Government last month announced £220 million for a new bus strategy to improve services nationwide, which it said would include support for local authorities wishing to pursue London-style franchised bus networks.

MP Clive Betts is heading up a review of bus services in South Yorkshire (pic: Chris Etchells)

Mr Betts claimed this money would not even ‘scratch the surface’, with more than half that amount needed to bring spending in South Yorkshire alone on a par with London, and he questioned whether the Government was truly committed to improving bus services in the north.

Mr Betts is heading up a review of bus services in South Yorkshire, which was launched by Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis and is considering options including the use of franchising powers to regulate buses in the area.

He said more than 6,000 people have already taken part in the public consultation, which is due to close next Friday, October 18.

As well as hearing from passengers, bus companies and various organisations, he and fellow commissioners have been visiting and speaking to local authorities around the country to see if they can learn from what is happening elsewhere.

He said their findings showed the service in Sheffield is worse than not just in London but in many other parts of the UK.

“I was surprised when I visited Reading, for example, to find they have buses running through the night, whereas in Sheffield they stop at 11.30pm,” said Mr Betts.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “Buses are vital for connecting people, homes and businesses, which is why we support local authorities by subsidising costs for these services by around £250m every year. This is on top of the additional £220m to improve bus services announced last month.”

“As part of this, last week we revealed that £30m will be paid directly to local authorities in 2020 to 2021, to help them boost current bus services or restore those that have been lost.

“We have also given powers to councils giving them a greater role in setting services in their areas and helping drive up the number of bus passengers.”

The Star has also contacted South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which coordinates public transport in the region, for a comment.