Green councillors have reacted with dismay to news of further cuts in bus services.
Cllr Bernard Little commented on the cut to the 135 bus that serves his ward of Walkley in Sheffield:
“News that the 135/135a bus serving Walkley and Upperthorpe will have its early morning, evening and weekend services cut from the 24th July is a huge disappointment to people who live in large parts of Lower Walkley. It most affects those who struggle to walk, where the streets are steep and where people use this bus to get to work.
“The reduction in this service comes on the back of the loss of the local 32 bus in September 2019 which has left many people stranded. The impact on residents in the ward has been devastating. The bus service connection with Walkley’s high street was severed. The social, health and local economic consequences remain and are substantial. The loss of the 135 will make a very difficult situation even worse.”
Councillors have now had confirmation from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) that a recent tender process failed to secure bus operators to deliver these key services for the community.
Cllr Douglas Johnson, until recently Sheffield Council’s Executive Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said,
“I have today written to the Mayor to offer the Green councillors’ support in asking central government for the essential money to keep South Yorkshire’s buses running.
“At the same time, I have repeated my disappointment about the lack of ambition in the previous mayor’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, the consequent lack of government funding and the fact that local political choices have undermined bus services.”
Green Cllr Christine Gilligan Kubo, who is on the new Climate Change, Regeneration and Transport Committee, said,
“The SYMCA undertook a second round of tendering for routes where the bus operators were encouraged to bid. Many contracts received no bids at all!”
“This does not bode well for when Government subsidy for bus operator ends in October. We want assurances that no further cuts to services will take place.
Greens recently called on the government to spend as much per head on transport in Yorkshire (£276 a year) as they do in London (£903 a year) if they were serious about levelling up.
Councillor Bernard Little continued,
“Essentially, franchising would mean that bus companies can name their price. This is why Sheffield Green Party thinks it was essential for SYMCA to have a good Bus Service Improvement Plan. In the event, SYMCA’s plan was so poor that it failed to get any government funding which might have stopped this.
“As a Green Councillor, along with my colleagues, I will continue to campaign for other ways of funding decent public transport.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
The details of these changes are provided in detail below:
|208||The last return trip from Sheffield and the Sunday daytime service will be cut|
|32/32a||Whole service cut|
|135/135a||An early morning, evening and all day Saturday/Sunday services will be cut|
|X74||Mon-Fri journeys from Sheffield at 0440, 0730-0830 and 1900-2100 will not operate. Journeys towards Sheffield 1815-2155 will not operate. Journeys on the X74 at other times and journeys on the A1 and X54 will continue to operate.|
The text of Cllr Johnson’s comment to the Mayor is:
I am very happy to offer the support of the Sheffield Green councillors in asking Government for the money needed to run a basic bus service. I note the withdrawal of unprofitable services will impact on areas of persistent poverty, such as Burngreave, Parson Cross and Upperthorpe. The impact will be felt mostly by people in low-paid jobs working unsociable hours.
It is clearly wrong and in appropriate for the government to end funding for essential public transport when the market has clearly not recovered from the effect of the pandemic. Under the model of private commercial markets we have inherited from the 1980s government, it is clear that commercial operators would not be expected to fund public services and therefore this money needs to come from the state. Put shortly, we need a public service paid for by public funds. I also think this should be in public ownership as it is key to meeting commitments to Net Zero and addressing climate change.
In a recent debate at Sheffield City Council, our group compared the funding government provides to London (£903 per head per year) to that offered to Yorkshire (at £276 per head per year). We believe that equalisation of transport spending is a key test of whether the Government has succeeded in levelling up.
However, the authorities in South Yorkshire could have done more. It was intensely disappointing that the Bus Service Improvement Plan failed to win any government funding at all because of the lack of ambition it contained. Sheffield was the only core city to lose out and I am frankly disappointed that the warnings I gave whilst a member of the Transport & the Environment Board were not heeded.
In Sheffield, a lot of work has been done to improve the bus operating environment. There are with major schemes to give buses and trams priority on the roads. We made public transport more attractive relative to private car use by increasing city centre car parking charges. There have – eventually – been improvements to city centre bus stop facilities.
From speaking regularly to the bus operators in my previous role as Executive Member for transport, I am aware they too are ready to modernise their services, for instance by introducing tap-on-tap-off ticketing, capped fares and multi-operator tickets as standard. However, this level of commercial investment, which we have seen in other towns and cities, is only going to be forthcoming if the local authorities across the whole of South Yorkshire step up with a commitment in favour of public transport. As long as political choices remain in favour of subsidising access for private cars instead of public transport, our bus services will face an uphill battle. It is within the powers of local authorities to introduce bus gates, increase parking charges and introduce workplace parking levies to address the large subsidy given by larger employers to individual car ownership. Experience elsewhere shows this could also deliver the large sums of money needed to support the bus routes that are now being cut.
Please don’t hesitate to ask for any support in making the case to government.
Cllr Douglas Johnson, (Green Party)
City Ward, Sheffield
Chair of Housing Policy Committee