Sheffield's buses could be brought back under public control after 35 years, say leaders

Sheffield’s buses could be brought back under public control, 35 years after being deregulated, say regional leaders.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 7:00 am

The city could follow the lead of Greater Manchester, where city mayor Andy Burnham announced last week that bus services were being re-regulated, with a franchising system coming into place.

In a joint statement, South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis and council leaders in the region said: “Bus services have been devastated by the Conservatives – since 2010, funding in South Yorkshire has been slashed by 48 per cent. Routes have been reduced. Fares have gone up, and the quality of buses has declined. It’s unacceptable.

“That’s why we’re taking matters into our own hands. In South Yorkshire, we’re supporting young people by extending concessionary travel fares for those aged 21 and below. We’re also investing a further £3.2m in our bus network. Money that will go on our first electric buses, upgrading bus stops, and installing electronic displays.

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Buses in Sheffield

“Looking to the longer term, we’re urgently working on a plan to ensure cheap fares, improved services and better integration with other transport, as well as conversion to zero-emissions vehicles – it’s the practical detail of what good looks like, and how to get us there quickly.

“That includes ownership structures. We have to make sure franchising works for us, but it is on the table. Our bottom line is we need a structure that lets us build the service we need.

“We’re determined to build a stronger, greener and fairer economy – and a sustainable, accessible, affordable and reliable bus network is integral to making that happen.”

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

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.

But the Government has invited local authorities to bring services back under public control by introducing franchising agreements, where local government leaders set the routes and fares and private companies compete to operate services, as part of its new bus strategy.

The other option is a statutory ‘enhanced partnership’, where local authorities work closely with bus companies without taking back full control of services.