South Yorkshire mayor and council leaders to enter into 'enhanced bus partnership' but franchising is still on the table

South Yorkshire will be implementing an ‘enhanced bus partnership’ in order to make operators more accountable to politicians but public control of the network is still being considered.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 4:56 pm

South Yorkshire will be implementing an ‘enhanced bus partnership’ in order to make operators more accountable to politicians but public control of the network is still being considered.

Mayor Dan Jarvis and South Yorkshire’s council leaders agreed to move into the enhanced partnership at a meeting on Monday (June 7).

Under this model, the Mayoral Combined Authority, councils and operators agree ‘shared aims’ and work closely together to deliver a better transport system.

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Once agreed, the partnership model unlocks additional government funding as set out in the National Bus Strategy.

But the leaders stressed that franchising was also being considered as they revealed they had been lobbied extensively on the idea of a public control model.

Mayor Jarvis has stressed before that it took Greater Manchester four years to come to some arrangement on how they would bring buses under public control.

An enhanced partnership is a statutory arrangement between a local transport authority and bus operators to work together to improve bus services tailored to its needs.

It can specify timetables and multi-operator ticketing, and allows the Sheffield City Region to take over the role of registering bus services from the Traffic Commissioners.

Franchising allows SCR greater control over ticketing and services. The National Bus Strategy asks transport authorities to consider either franchising or enhanced partnerships, but a business case must be developed before franchising is entered into, a process which can take several years.

But the move to an enhanced partnership was criticised by campaigners who want buses under a model of public control.

Matthew Topham on behalf of Better Buses West Yorkshire, said: “We heard from leaders that they could not start both the public control and partnership processes because they did not know the financial implications of public control.

“This shows a deep lack of understanding and interest in the options before them. Local bus users had precisely asked them to start the official investigation into public control to determine the costs and benefits of bus reform before making a final decision.

“Greater Manchester finished this process in March finding that public control offers almost three times the economic benefit of the operator-proposed partnership.

“There was no need to launch the partnership negotiation today when they could have started progressing the evaluation of public control at the same time."

Mayor Jarvis said: “Our bus services are critical to the future of South Yorkshire, but we need a transformation if they are going to fulfil their potential. If we build a good system, people will use it.

“This is an interim arrangement, so we can secure the funds needed, while we look at the full range of governance models, including franchising.

“My bottom line is that I will back whatever structure can best deliver the fundamental change we so badly need, to build a reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly bus service for all of South Yorkshire.

“As we know from other areas, franchising is a complicated process that can take many years, and we want to get cracking now on delivering the improvements our system is crying out for. ”