STATEMENT FROM SOUTH YORKSHIRE LEADERS ON BUS SERVICES
Published 26 November 2021 at 11:04am
We have recently received notification that First Group are intending to make cuts to some of the services they provide in South Yorkshire, especially in Sheffield.
The Mayoral Combined Authority is engaging with the company, which has postponed wider cuts elsewhere for the time being. Nonetheless the planned changes are deeply disappointing, and the threat of further reductions by bus operators remains very real. The move comes as passengers already face disruption in the run-up to Christmas from industrial disputes between Stagecoach and its drivers.
It is deeply frustrating to be in this position after 18 months when unprecedented public money has gone to operators, including over £20m to First alone. The MCA has also pumped major resources into reviving passenger numbers, including committing millions for fare concessions, and agreed an ambitious roadmap for the transformation of our network, including many measures bus companies have been clamouring for.
At a moment when we have shown our commitment to build a better bus service for South Yorkshire, cuts would directly undermine that ambition, and risk fuelling a vicious cycle of decline. Whatever the challenges facing operators, a rush to reduce services seriously calls into question their willingness to be credible partners in building the transformation they claim to support.
It is however clear that the government has also contributed greatly to this situation – with ongoing uncertainty over continued recovery funding from April and growing doubts over long term investment adding to the pressure on operators. We submitted an ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plan and began the process of negotiating an Enhanced Partnership in good faith – and yet much of the promised financing by the government appears to be evaporating.
Our immediate focus now will be on minimising disruption for passengers. But we remain absolutely committed to creating a fundamentally better service. That includes, as we have always intended, bringing forward proposals for the January MCA meeting to consider starting the formal process of investigating bus franchising as a way to deliver the service South Yorkshire needs.
Meanwhile, we will continue to work closely with operators and government, and to make the case for them to back the transformative vision for buses they say they support. But with or without them, we will keep fighting to better connect our region, support our businesses, and stave off pollution, congestion and a growing climate crisis. This agenda is too important to do otherwise.
Dan Jarvis MP, South Yorkshire Mayor
Cllr Terry Fox, Leader, Sheffield City Council
Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader, Barnsley Council
Mayor Ros Jones, Leader, Doncaster Council
Cllr Chris Read, Leader, Rotherham Council
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