Private bus companies plan massive cuts to bus services across S. Yorks
Up to a third of the network could go by October
(and hardly any buses after 10pm)
Government and private bus operators to blame for collapse
“Just when we thought our local bus services couldn’t get any worse, the private bus companies have announced up to one third of services could be axed by October. This is disaster for our local communities, the local economy and for the environment,” said Martin Mayer, Secretary Sheffield TUC.
Sheffield TUC backs S. Yorks Mayor Oliver Coppard’s demand to the Government for £85M over 3 years to secure the network whilst a new franchising system is put in place – which will bring buses back under public control. Meanwhile the Government’s special COVID funding to keep services running during the pandemic is due to an end in October and First and Stagecoach say they cannot afford to run the current network without it.
In theory S Yorks Passenger Transport Authority could pay the operators to run services which are not commercially profitable, but continuous Government funding cuts to Local Authorities mean there is simply not the funds to do so. Besides, the private bus operators have not even bid for some contracted services because they can’t recruit and retain enough staff – and they won’t improve pay and conditions sufficiently to rectify the problem.
“What we are seeing is the complete collapse of the Tories’ privatised and deregulate system of running our local bus services,” said Martin Mayer. “This is compounded by a current Tory Government that talks big about levelling up but totally fails to come up with the funding that’s needed. The Government’s “Bus Back Better” strategy paper promised to help authorities like ours to switch to a franchising system but we can’t if there’s hardly any bus services left and no funding to do it with!”
Private companies will only run what’s profitable and the last 30 years have seen a steady reduction in service frequency and the size of the network as the private operators sought find a smaller but more remunerative business. But less frequent services and cuts to off-peak running such as early morning, evenings and Sundays have simply driven more passenger way. This has continued post-COVID as lower passenger levels led to further reduced frequencies on almost all routes. But passengers won’t return to a network that is too infrequent and fails to provide an attractive service. The result is fewer buses, and much more traffic on our roads, adding to pollution and damaging our environment.
“We are going in completely the wrong direction with our public transport,” said Martin Mayer. “We need to bring our buses back under public ownership and control and massively expand the network to make it attractive so that people leave their cars at home. It’s what we were building with our wonderful low fares policy in S Yorks over 30 years ago until the then Tory Government came and wrecked it for us” he said.