Bus cuts in Sheffield will leave many 'stranded', warn passengers, as major overhaul looms

Numerous bus routes across South Yorkshire will be scrapped or altered from this weekend, with furious passengers warning the cuts will leave some communities 'stranded'.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 5:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 10:08 pm

Around a quarter of services across the region will be affected - with those in Sheffield and Doncaster worst hit - as transport chiefs respond to budget cuts, falling passenger numbers, higher running costs and growing congestion.

The major overhaul, which was announced in late July, will take effect between this Saturday, August 31, and Monday, September 2.

While the changes to many routes are fairly minor timetable adjustments designed to improve reliability, some services will be cut completely or see their frequency drastically reduced.

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Diane Leek and fellow bus users who claim changes being made to the 31 and 31b bus routes through Walkley will leave some people 'prisoners in their own homes'

Fifteen services are being rerouted or replaced by alternatives, and two are being withdrawn, with publicly subsidised or 'tendered' routes serving hard to reach communities bearing the brunt of the cuts.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), which coordinates public transport in the region, said when announcing the changes that it had been forced to take 'difficult decisions' as 'we simply can't afford to retain the same level of services'.

It reminded passengers this week to check whether their buses will be affected so they are not caught by surprise when the shake-up takes effect.

Cuts to certain routes have prompted a furious response from passengers, who claim they threaten to leave whole communities cut off and will unfairly impact older and disabled people.

Passngers in Walkley are upset about the loss of the 31 and 31b services between Sheffield city centre and Loxley, which will be only partially replaced by routes 52a, 135 and 135a, leaving no direct link between Upperthorpe and South Road, Walkley.

Diane Leek, a former councillor, said the changes would leave many residents living on or around Sherde Road, Daniel Hill Street, Harold Street, Whitehouse Lane and Carr Road 'prisoners in their own homes'.

"These bus services are known as the mountain goats because the area's so hilly and it's very difficult for residents, especially older ones, to get about by foot," she said.

"This will leave many people stranded. Some will be unable to visit their GPs, churches and libraries, as well as essential shopping on South Road. They will also lose their links with the rest of the city's transport network.

"A high number of residents in the area are elderly and disabled, and they will be unable to access the support they need via public transport.

"We are constantly being asked to use public transport to improve air quality. This will just increase the number of cars on the road and make other people prisoners in their own homes."

In Killamarsh, the 71 service between Sheffield city centre and Norwood is being scaled back considerably, with some early morning, late evening and Sunday journeys no longer running.

Councillor Steve Clough, chairman of Killamarsh Parish Council, said: "It's our only direct route into Sheffield city centre and they've decided to stop the early morning and late services without consulting the parish council or local residents at all.

"These are services which people, myself included, rely upon to get to work in the morning. We've asked the transport executive to review the decision and consult with the people of Killamarsh."

People living in High Green, meanwhile, say the changes will leave the area 'cut off', with the route 1a being only partially replaced by a new service 11, and fewer 135a buses running to the area.

The last bus from Sheffield city centre to High Green will now be the number 1 Stagecoach service leaving Arundel Gate at 10.25pm on weekdays.

Posting on a community Facebook page, one user wrote: "If you rely on buses at all please help support the community and email Stagecoach to ask them to extend the final bus to its normal route so we at least have one service.

"The alternative is to walk from Grenoside or Chapeltown up two steep hills late at night in the dark, which is unacceptable and unsafe.... High Green is getting cut off."

The changes affecting passengers in Killamarsh and High Green are both down to cuts to tendered services which have been publicly subsidised.

John Young, commercial director for Stagecoach, said that some of the late evening and early morning services on service 71 had previously been funded by SYPTE, which had taken the decision to cease funding them due to low levels of usage and budget constraints. He added that some users would still be able to travel by using service 50.

Sue Beardon complained about the number 56, which served Heeley Green, being rerouted away from the area.

She said many passengers had been concerned about losing the service, only to learn they would be able to use the new 11/11a route instead - something she argued had not been adequately publicised.

The 71-year-old retired management consultant claimed transport chiefs had failed to learn from the 'chaos' caused by the last major overhaul a couple of years back, which left 'hundreds of people wandering around town unsure where to get our bus home or what number it was'.

"I think the same's going to happen this time because changing the routes and the numbers at the same time is a recipe for disaster, and the communication's not been good enough," she added.

She described the latest cuts to bus services as 'retrogressive', saying: "With a climate catastrophe looming, the one thing we need is a decent public transport service to get fewer people using their cars."

A spokesman for the operator First South Yorkshire said of the changes affecting Heeley Green: "The new service 11a will run between Northern General Hospital and Herdings, partially replacing service 1a and 56 every 15 minutes, which we believe reflects customer demand on this section of route."

An SYPTE spokeswoman said: "We will always undertake public consultation on bus network changes when there is an opportunity for customer and stakeholder feedback to influence decisions.

"The bus changes in September are forced by fewer passengers, increased running costs and reduced funding available for public transport. While we’ve protected services where possible, this pressure on the network means some changes are unavoidable.

"We will continue to work with bus companies to monitor customer comments and keep services under regular review. But, our buses need greater support from passengers and policy makers alike if we are to reverse this continued decline."

Tim Taylor, SYPTE's director of customer services, added: "We’ve worked hard with bus companies to protect the network and minimise the impact on passengers, which means a large proportion of services will not change.

"We have made sure alternative transport links are available, wherever possible, but with fewer resources and rising costs the same level of bus coverage can’t be maintained.

"We are encouraging passengers to plan ahead and check for any changes to their service before they travel.”

To check whether your route is affected, visit travelsouthyorkshire.com/servicechanges. The changes are also being publicised on operators' websites, at bus stops, onboard buses and via Traveline, which you can call on 01709 51 51 51.