Bus cuts: Angry response as bus company suddenly ceases operations, with loss of 260 jobs and 24 routes
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Powell’s, part of the HCT group, told staff today (August 5) that it will cease operations from Monday. The company has a depot in Sheffield, employing 60 staff, plus bases in Leeds, with 140 staff, and Wakefield, with another 60.
The company’s routes in Sheffield are the 5, serving Firth Park, the 6 to Millhouses Tesco park and ride, the 10 and 10a, serving Heeley, Manor Park and Upperthorpe, the 35a to Chapeltown, the 61 and 62 to Hillsborough, Loxley and Bradfield, and the 201 to Chapeltown and Stocksbridge.
It also runs 14 services in Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.
Stagecoach has stepped in to take over the 6, 61/62 and 201, which it was due to do in October.
The firm says service 6 will run to the same timetable , as will the 61/62 service on Mondays to Saturdays. The 61/ 62 will no longer run on Sundays.
Service 201 will have a new timetable and slightly different route in Stocksbridge.
Customers that have valid Powell’s bus tickets can use them on the replacement Stagecoach services until August 14.
Sheffield City Council’s transport, regeneration and climate policy committee co-chair Coun Mazher Iqbal said: “How appalling is that, telling your employees you’ve no longer got a job and giving no notice to our passengers who are going to be relying on these services.
He added: “I can’t find the words. I’m so annoyed at the job losses and the passengers being impacted.
“We thought these cuts were coming in October and everybody’s surprised. If this stands, it’s just chaos.”
Coun Iqbal said his anger was increased by the fact that the council is spending millions of pounds on the city centre and district centres, to make them more attractive for people to travel to.
‘It’s compounding things for our most vulnerable communities’
“We’re spending millions across the city for upgrading bus shelters and providing real-time timetables – all that relies on having a bus.”
He added: “We have a cost-of-living crisis – people can’t afford to get in taxis. It’s just compounding things for some of our most vulnerable communities.”
He said that the South Yorkshire mayor’s office was working to see what can be done and hit out at the Conservatives for underfunding bus services in Sheffield.
“I’m more than happy to give transport secretary Grant Shapps a bus ticket if he wants to come to Sheffield and see for himself. Or I can get him on a plane – people in Doncaster want to talk to him about their airport.”
Unite trade union official Phil Bown said: “They have gone into administration. They are shutting their gates on Monday because they say that they have run out of money.”
Phil, who is the union’s regional officer for passenger services, said: “This affects more than 250 drivers and associated staff, who will be out of work from Monday onwards.
‘This was dropped on our toes’
“There was no consultation with Unite, the recognised trade union. This was dropped on our toes just two days ago.
“The parent company must have known the situation for a few weeks and not bothered to tell anybody and let everything out at once.
“My priority now is getting a protective award for redundancy payments. ”
He added that services not taken over by Stagecoach will hit city areas hard: “These services are not going to be running to deprived areas like the Manor, Burngreave and Pitsmoor.”
He said that the union is trying to talk to South and West Yorkshire mayors Oliver Coppard and Tracy Brabin about getting other bus operators to take over the lost routes, but the problem is that they are not very profitable.
He added: “It was a low-pay company. They tendered for and won contracts on the back of low pay and then went belly up.”
Mr Bown said that the answer is taking buses back out of private hands: “As from January, Mayor Andy Burnham in Manchester is bringing back buses into public control with proper franchises.
“He’s had challenges in the courts and won. It opens up the door to others. Let’s make these services what they were meant for – they were for all of us, rather than privateering companies.”