These are the Sheffield bus routes with the most complaints
The number of complaints about buses in Sheffield has shot up, and we can reveal the routes generating the most grumbles.
There were 2,262 complaints last year about bus services within Sheffield recorded by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE).
That’s a 54 per cent increase from the 1,466 which were logged by the organisation in 2017.
The number 51 bus route between Lodge Moor and Charnock, which is operated by First, was the subject of the most complaints during 2018, at 147, which is just one more than the 146 gripes about the number 120 from Fulwood to Halfway.
There were 131 complaints about the number 8 service and 110 relating to the number 81, plus a further 14 services which each had at least 50 complaints made about them.
The number of complaints has fallen since 2013/14, when 2,854 were recorded, according to data obtained using the Freedom of Information Act. The figures do not include complaints made directly to the bus companies, so the true numbers could be much higher.
The Star spoke to passengers waiting for a number 51 bus outside the Peace Gardens, most of whom were not surprised to hear it was the subject of so many complaints.
Janet Wilding, a 68-year-old retired cleaner who regularly catches the 51 to and from her home on East Bank Road, said: “It’s rubbish, and it’s been getting worse. They just turn up when they want, but it’s the only service on our route so we don’t have any other choice.
“Passengers have asked for (bus operator) Stagecoach to be added to the route but we were told that would be taking business from First.
“You often have two buses fail to arrive and then you’ll suddenly get three turning up at once.”
Lynn Brook, a 66-year-old former HR worker, from Gleadless Common, said: “I’ve been waiting more than 40 minutes before for a number 51, and then three buses have come at once.
“We’re also on the tram route and if we need to be somewhere first thing in the morning I tend to go by tram because it’s more reliable.
“I think congestion’s a big problem, especially when you have the school traffic in the morning and afternoons. I don’t think making them more regular would help because it’s the punctuality which is a problem.”
Myke Wheeler, however, said he found the 52 to be relatively reliable.
“I don't think it's too bad. Sometimes one bus will be missing and then you’ll get two at once but you’re not usually waiting for too long,” said the 79-year-old, from Heeley, who used to make soft furnishings for a living.
“Personally, I think the number 95 which I get most weeks to Walkley is the worst service. I’ve been waiting up to 45 minutes for that.
“It’s one of the most disgusting bus services I’ve ever used but I rely on buses because I don’t have a car anymore.”
The number of journeys made by bus within Sheffield has fallen sharply in recent years, from 56.9 million in 2013/14 to 54.3m in 2016/17 and 51 million the following year.
There has been a steady decline in punctuality over the same period, with 91.1 per cent of buses arriving on time in 2013/14, compared with 87 per cent in 2016/17 and 85.2 per cent in 2017/18.
Customer satisfaction, meanwhile, fell from 62 per cent in 2013/14 to 52.9 per cent in 2016/17, before improving significantly to 76.8 per cent in 2017/18, when SYPTE said a new method for the survey had been introduced.
Reliability has remained high, however, at 98.1 per cent for 2017/18, only slightly down on the 98.7 per cent recorded in 2013/14.
Garry Birmingham, managing director at First South Yorkshire, said the latest survey by Transport Focus for 2018 showed most of the company’s ratings remained in line with those from the previous year, including ‘overall satisfaction’ at 83 per cent, but satisfaction with driver greetings had risen by nine percentage points to 77 per cent and with driver helpfulness leapt 10 percentage points to 79 per cent.
“We have seen some good improvements but we also have a number of areas and issues where our plans and actions have yet to demonstrate their effect through improved satisfaction,” he added.
“Congestion of course remains a huge issue in many areas and is understandably reflected in customers’ frustrations when they experience slow and delayed journey times.
“Over the past year we have focussed on providing customers with simpler journeys and better information through investment in; digital mobile and contactless ticketing, driver training, app developments and investment in on-board customer technology and new vehicles.
“Customers are at the heart of all that we do and we will continue to work with colleagues through Buses for Sheffield to focus on actions that improve the customer experience.”
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis recently commissioned an independent review of bus travel in South Yorkshire, to be chaired by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts.
Cheaper fares, more routes and greener vehicles are among the options that will be under consideration to reverse the slump in passenger numbers.
Clive Betts said: “When we carry out the review, we will be looking at what’s been happening over the years in terms of trends and what action could be taken to increase the number of people travelling by bus and to improve their satisfaction with the service.
“We know there’s been a long-term decline in bus usage across the city and although that's true nationally I think the fall in Sheffield has probably been more significant than in most parts of the country, which is clearly a matter of concern.
“We need to keep an open mind as to why fewer people are using buses.
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“Since the review was announced, people have been writing in to share their experiences, and we’re keen to keep hearing from passengers.
“Our report will reflect those individual accounts and the information we get from organisations like the bus companies, councils and trades unions.
“We expect to start the review in the next three to four weeks, and we hope to come up with some proposals by the end of the year.”
Tim Taylor, SYPTE’s director of customer services, said it worked closely with operators and Sheffield Council to address complaints and improve services.
He said they were collaborating to identify and tackle congestion hot spots in an attempt to make buses more reliable and punctual.
Changes along Barnsley Road in north Sheffield; on the Sheaf Valley corridor and on Chesterfield Road in Heeley were already improving journey times, he added.
But he said essential work, including citywide road resurfacing and Supertram track replacements, had significantly disrupted bus services and led to a rise in complaints in recent years.
“The decline in bus patronage seen across South Yorkshire reflects a national trend,” he added.
“There are multiple factors affecting this drop in the number of people using buses in the UK. These include an increase in car ownership, particularly in lower income groups, the growth in online shopping and the number of people able to work flexibly from home.
“Despite the national trend, SYPTE is working hard to attract more bus passengers in the region. The Sheffield Bus Partnership has had 1.3 million more fare paying passenger journeys per year and the reliability of bus services have increased and is now measured at 98% for 2018.
“These increases in fare payers have been offset by reduced numbers of passengers travelling on concessionary passes as a result of changes in the eligibility criteria.
“It’s also important to note that, despite a higher number of complaints received by SYPTE, we’ve seen an improvement in customer satisfaction with bus services, which was recorded at 76.8 per cent in 2017/2018.”
COMPLAINTS ABOUT BUS SERVICES IN SHEFFIELD DURING 2018
Number 51: 147
Number 120: 146
Number 20: 131
Number 81: 110
Number 52a: 88
Number 24: 86
Number 135: 84
Number 76: 72
Number 8: 71
Number 97: 66
Number 1a: 61
Number 56: 61
Number 3: 60
Number 75: 57
Number 95: 54
Number 35: 53
Number 83: 52
Number 98: 52
services with at least 50 complaints to SYPTE during 2018