Sheffield MP wants city to follow Manchester and bring buses back under public control - this is when it could happen

A Sheffield MP believes the city should follow Manchester and bring buses back under public control.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 1:43 pm

But Clive Betts who chaired a major review into bus services across the Sheffield City Region, says the city is a couple of years behind Greater Manchester so any decision is unlikely to be made before 2023.

Buses across the country used to be regulated, giving local authorities the power to determine the routes, timetables and fares.

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Sheffield MP Clive Betts wants the region's buses to be brought back under public control
Sheffield MP Clive Betts wants the region's buses to be brought back under public control

This ended in 1986, with the exception of London, when bus services were privatised and companies were free to choose the most profitable routes and set their own fares.

Yesterday, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham announced it would be the first city outside London to bring buses back under local control by introducing a franchising system, where operators compete to run routes set by local government leaders.

He said the move would mean simpler fares and ticketing, the ability to cap prices for journeys across buses and trams, and better joined-up planning so passengers can quickly and easily change between buses and trams.

The first franchised buses in Greater Manchester will run from early 2023, he said, with a fully franchised system in place by the end of 2025.

Clive Betts, the Labour MP for Sheffield South East, said he supports the introduction of franchising in the Sheffield City Region, encompassing South Yorkshire and surrounding areas.

He claimed the first step was to introduce an ‘enhanced bus partnership’ across the region, to which operators would be required to sign up by April 2021, helping to improve services and unlock more central government funding.

But he insisted that franchising proposals should be drawn up alongside this so no time is wasted should the region opt for re-regulation down the line.

"Doing nothing is not an option. This is basically the obituary for deregulation, because everyone accepts that a free-for-all for buses is no longer viable,” he said.

"An enhanced partnership needs to put in place before April next year but work must also start on a franchising arrangement which can be activated if desired.

"I support franchising but it's a big job and they’ve been working on this for two years in Manchester so I think it would be two years at least before we could move to that system.”

A review of bus services in the Sheffied City Region, commissioned by the city mayor Dan Jarvis, concluded last year that they were ‘not fit for purpose’.

Mr Betts said it was clear that more money had to be invested both by central government and locally to bring them back up to scratch.

"Buses have to be seen as a priority service and if you’re putting in the money which is necessary, you need to be in control of how that money’s being spent,” he said.

“Things are going to change and whatever model is put in place we have to make sure people get a bus service that’s more reliable, more frequent, better linked up and where services don’t change every other week.”