Public transport in South Yorkshire: Frustrated carer sets out ambitions for better buses, trains and trams

A young carer who experienced a nightmare journey to school in Sheffield is calling for a public transport revolution in South Yorkshire.

By Robert Cumber
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 1:04 pm

Thomas Atkin says bus connections are so limited and unreliable, he had to leave at 6.30am every day to ensure he got from his then home in Totley Brook to Meadowhall School on time – a journey of around two-and-a-half miles.

That’s just one example of what he says is a crumbling public transport network, which is why he has launched a forum to get more people talking about what must change and how that can be achieved.

Thomas cares for his disabled parents, is disabled himself and like many people across the region doesn’t have a car, making him reliant on buses, trains and trams – which he says are not good enough – to get about.

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Thomas Atkin has launched the South Yorkshire Public Transport Forum Facebook group to try to get more people talking about public transport in South Yorkshire and how to fix what he says is a broken system

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“Public transport in South Yorkshire’s really not working for anyone. You can’t rely on it and it keeps getting worse, which is why something needs to be done,” said the 18-year-old, who now lives in Woodseats and plans to train to become a nurse.

“I’ve launched this forum on Facebook to try to get people to have a discourse and come up with holistic solutions to the problem.

“It’s all very well a politician saying ‘this will help’, but if they’re not using public transport or properly listening to people who are then what do they know?”

Thomas is keen to hear everyone’s ideas but his own wishlist includes bringing buses back under public ownership – not just public control, as is planned – though this is something he admits is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

He also wants the Supertram network to be extended significantly to serve Barnsley, Doncaster and more parts of Sheffield, especially the south-west of the city and the Royal Hallamshire and Northern General hospitals.

And he has called for the public to be at the heart of any decision-making, as he feels too often in the past proposed changes have simply been announced with little meaningful consultation.

Thomas says South Yorkshire should seek to emulate Manchester when it comes to trams, and Edinburgh for buses.

“Manchester’s light rail system is brilliant. It’s constantly expanding, you can get to pretty much anywhere you want and it’s drawn a lot of people out of cars,” he said.

“In Sheffield, by comparison, we’ve had two new stops since 1995.

“Lothian Buses (which operates in and around Edinburgh) is council-owned, its services are frequent, reliable and work for people who need them, and there are two disabled spaces on every bus.

“It’s the kind of accessible, modern bus service we need here in South Yorkshire.”

When it comes to integrating different modes of public transport, Thomas claims cities in mainland Europe show how it’s done.

“You can go from a bus to a tram to a train in most continental cities, no problems, and you’re informed throughout about how your journey’s going, which isn’t the case here,” he said.

The forum’s launch coincides with Oliver Coppard’s election as the new South Yorkshire mayor, tasked with improving public transport in the region.

Near the top of his to-do list will be bus franchising, which would bring the regulation of routes, frequencies and fares back under public control, after his predecessor Dan Jarvis committed to an assessment of the proposed new model.

To join the South Yorkshire Public Transport Forum Facebook group, visit: www.facebook.com/groups/785010275960576.