Plans for more public control of South Yorkshire bus services could move forward next week

Plans to bring in new ‘bus franchising’ to beef up services in South Yorkshire, could be backed next week.

Thursday, 24th February 2022, 6:56 pm

South Yorkshire Metropolitan Combined Authority (SYMCA) mayor Dan Jarvis is bringing forward proposals for the formal investigation of the scheme in South Yorkshire – describing it as a critical step for efforts to transform the region’s transport.

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The decision, which will set the wheels in motion for greater public contol over buses, will be put before a special SYMCA meeting on Friday March 4.

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Plans for more public control of South Yorkshire bus services could move forward next week

Sheffield Council leader Terry Fox has said he wants to know the financial implications before agreeing the scheme, saying taxpayers need to know exactly the cost of the bill.

Mr Jarvis said he continued to believe in the huge potential of the region’s buses, but it was clear the current system in South Yorkshire was not delivering as it should.

He said: “We have to look at every option to transform our region’s transport – and that has to include franchising.

“Franchising is not a silver bullet and we should be under no illusion about the challenges we face, irrespective of which bus model we choose. But greater public control has the potential to help build a bus system that better meets the needs and priorities of South Yorkshire. The assessment is a critical step that sets the stage for franchising if we are satisfied the case has been made.

Plans for more public control of South Yorkshire bus services could move forward next week

“Nevertheless, we’ve set out strong ambitions and invested millions to improve services. But just when we should be working together to rebuild public transport, bus companies that received millions in public subsidy during the pandemic are rushing to cuts and fare hikes that will cut off communities and lock in the harm done by Covid – while the government is asleep at the wheel.

“Moving to the formal franchising assessment is the right decision for South Yorkshire. But I want and need operators to act like real partners now, for government to continue emergency funding support, and provide the transformative investment they promised. Without that we cannot hope to reverse the cycle of decline – and build the future that South Yorkshire deserves.”

South Yorkshire’s proposed assessment of bus franchising follows plans to develop an enhanced partnership in response to the government’s National Bus Strategy.

The partnership’s blueprint for bus reform - founded on feedback from the region’s Bus Review - includes proposals for free travel for under 18s and capped fares for all passengers, bus priority measures to make journeys quicker, better journey planning information, ‘turn up and go’ bus options, and zero emission buses to make travel cleaner and greener towards a net-zero future.

Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis. Plans for more public control of South Yorkshire bus services could move forward next week. Picture: Chris Etchells

The enhanced partnership plan and scheme, recently subject to public consultation, would form a legally binding agreement between SYMCA and local bus operators to deliver the actions set out in South Yorkshire’s Bus Service Improvement Plan. Work to establish and implement the enhanced partnership continues, says SYMCA.

Both Sheffield’s main bus companies, First and Stagecoach, have previously backed the region’s bus service improvement plan.