Powell's Bus: Bus services aross South Yorkshire to stop running as operator announces sudden closure

A number of bus services across South Yorkshire will stop running from Monday after the operator’s shock closure.

HCT Group announced its Powell’s and CT Plus companies would close and services will cease from Monday, August 8.

Powell’s Bus then tweeted this afternoon to say it was closing ‘with a view to entering administration’ and all services would stop from 5pm on Friday, August 5.

A total of 19 services across South Yorkshire are affected, including 10 in Sheffield, eight in Rotherham, four in Doncaster and two in Barnsley, with some of those services operating across more than one local authority.

HCT Group has announced the sudden closure of its Powells and CT Plus bus companies in South Yorkshire, with services set to stop running from Monday, August 8

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However, Stagecoach Yorkshire has said it is working with South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) to maintain some of the services and from Monday would take over services 6 from Sheffield to Millhouses, 61/62 between Hillsborough and Low Bradfield, and 201 from Chapeltown to Stocksbridge.

Customers with valid Powell’s Bus tickets will be able to continue using them on the replacement services until August 14.

Around 50 employees based at the Powell’s depot in Hellaby are understood to be affected by the closure.

What is being done to replace bus services?

In a statement, Travel South Yorkshire said: “South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority is co-ordinating work, with local authorities and other bus companies, to put alternative services in place, where possible. We are committed to keeping customers informed as these plans develop.”

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said: “This is totally unacceptable for the thousands who rely on these routes and yet another symptom of the chronic underfunding and failure of the market.”

She added: “Absolutely appalling that the company have pulled out of these services at such short notice. I'll be taking this up with (Transport Secretary) Grant Shapps.”

Sheffield Liberal Democrats also expressed ‘huge disappointment' at the news, which came just days after reductions across South Yorkshire to previously subsidised services and ahead of huge cuts this autumn that will see Sheffield lose up to one in three of its bus routes.

The group’s transport spokesperson, Councillor Andrew Sangar, said: “We are seeing more cuts to services coming again and again. The city simply cannot go on like this. Soon, lots of people all around Sheffield will have no way of getting to work, school, or the shops; frankly, they will have no way of living their lives.”

Could bus operator be bought to keep more services running?

Matthew Topham, of the Better Buses for South Yorkshire campaign group, called on South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard to buy the company to keep services running.

He said: “If the closure hasn't yet gone through, this could a golden opportunity for the Mayor to show he will use all his powers to protect passengers and communities.

“The Government is very clear: councils can buy existing bus companies.

“If the local councils bought Powell's it could be used as an operator of last resort to stop some of the looming cuts, like those that happened earlier this month.

“The authority had the money to pay operators to run those essential services, but no one bid for the work. A council owned operator of last resort would ensure those routes are run.”

One person told how his grandson had qualified as a bus driver with HCT Group on Wednesday, only to be told the following day of the closure.

What has South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard said about the closure?

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “I know that Powell’s announcement of their insolvency will be a huge worry to our community, putting at risk people’s jobs, livelihoods and further undermining our region’s bus network. I share those concerns. At a time when operators are already failing to provide passengers with the services they need and deserve this is another blow.

“With the limited public money available to support bus companies, we had been providing Powell’s with additional levels of financial support this year. Their announcement this week is just another example of how the system as a whole is broken - temporarily plugging the gap of at-risk services is not a viable long-term solution or a route to building the public transport network our region needs.

“Right now we have a broken system that allows operators to simply walk away, leaving taxpayers to step in and prop up services, so people can get to work, school, medical appointments and to see family and friends. That’s why we are undertaking the assessment into whether we can franchise South Yorkshire’s buses, as a route to a long-term solution for our public transport network. In the meantime, it’s also why we’ve asked the government for a funding package that allows us to better support and maintain our public transport network.

“More immediately, I have asked officers to look into all the options open to us to protect services, including our legal position in relation to ownership of bus companies. People will understand that it’s a complicated process, limited by legislation in the Bus Services Act and a host of other challenges. However, I will explore any and all opportunities to protect and improve services.

“However, my priority is to move at pace to find operators to plug the gaps that have been created by Powells. I’m pleased to say we have had positive conversations with alternative operators and I’m confident we are in a position to fund other operations to provide some of the services that are at threat of being cancelled. We’ll make details available as soon as we have them.”

What has the bus operator said about the sudden closure?

In a statement, HCT Group said it had faced ‘significant difficulties’ with its Yorkshire operation for ‘some time’, with the Covid pandemic, followed by rising fuel prices and labour costs all having an impact

“Everyone at CT Plus Yorkshire and Powell’s – and across the wider HCT Group – has worked tirelessly to put the operations in Yorkshire on a sustainable footing, but there is nothing further to be done and the situation cannot continue.”

It said it was talking with its commissioners across Yorkshire to try to transfer as many services as possible to new operators in an attempt to keep buses running and protect jobs.

The Star has asked HCT why more notice of the closure was not given, what will happen to staff and what steps it has taken to try to keep services running.

What bus services in South Yorkshire are affected by the closure?

Below is the full list of services affected, by local authority.

Sheffield

A1: Sheffield - Waverley - Meadowhall

X20: Barnsley - Doncaster

5: Sheffield - Firth Park

6: Sheffield – Millhouses (Tesco P&R) – this service is being taken over by Stagecoach and will continue to run to the existing timetable

10: Manor Park - Heeley - Upperthorpe - Sheffield (Circle)

10a: Manor Park - Sheffield - Upperthorpe - Heeley (Circle)

35a: Chapeltown - Warren (Circle)

61: Sheffield - Hillsborough - Loxley - Bradfield (Circle) – this service is being taken over by Stagecoach and will continue to run to the existing timetable Monday-Saturday but will no longer run on Sundays

62: Sheffield - Hillsborough - Bradfield – Loxley (Circle) – this service is being taken over by Stagecoach and will continue to run to the existing timetable Monday-Saturday but will no longer run on Sundays

201: Chapeltown - Stocksbridge – this service is being taken over by Stagecoach. It will have a new timetable and slightly different route in Stocksbridge. The larger buses are not able to cross the bridge at Fox Valley, so will use Manchester Road.

Doncaster

DR1: Doncaster Royal Infirmary P&R

49: Doncaster - Sprotbrough (Circle)

521: Bawtry - Auckley (The Hayfield Sch)

18: Doncaster - Edlington - Maltby - Hellaby

Rotherham

18: Doncaster - Edlington - Maltby - Hellaby

637: Thurcroft - Kiveton Park (Wales High Sch)

638: Thurcroft - Kiveton Park (Wales High Sch)

639: Thurcroft - Kiveton Park (Wales High Sch)

3: Rotherham - Ravenfield Common

117: Rotherham - Bramley

A1: Sheffield - Waverley - Meadowhall

X20: Barnsley - Doncaster

Barnsley

201: Chapeltown - Stocksbridge

X20: Barnsley - Doncaster