Bus services must be made more responsive and accountable
I welcome today's release of the report into our local bus services which highlights a number of issues that we have all experienced with buses across South Yorkshire. My thanks go to the Mayor Dan Jarvis and Clive Betts MP for their work in compiling it.
Across our constituency we have seen first-hand the problems of the current system, with routes such as the SL1 being withdrawn with no notice, leaving people stranded and unable to get to work or access vital services.
Local stakeholders identified the following concerns:
- Frequency - is poor or has fallen dramatically.
- Reliability - stakeholders believe that issues around reliability are one of the main causes of the decline in passenger numbers
- Climate change - not enough is being done to incentive people to use our buses and strategies appear to support car use
- Policy alignment - commercial and residential developments are not designed to be well served by bus services
- Connectivity - stakeholders felt that the bus network offers poor connectivity between smaller towns and villages
- Service changes - changes and cuts to service are not well communicated and are more frequent than stipulated
- Ticketing - overwhelming number of ticket options, with more room for contactless and off-board ticketing
- Quality and accessiblity - varied standard of buses with average age of buses of over 9 years, (English average of 7.7 years). While, accessiblity offers are outdated, possibly inadequate.
Three focus areas were highlighted:
These focus area must now be addressed, and the recommendation to integrate SYPTE properly into the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority will go some way to help provide the much needed leadership and accountability. The Government's devolution agenda sees transport as an important part of levelling up our region, and having elected authority over buses is crucial to this. But regardless of who runs or oversees the services, buses must be responsive to the needs of their customers, and accountable to the communities they exist to serve.
Our 2019 manifesto recognised the importance of the role of buses in levelling up towns and cities beyond London. This commitment has been reinforced by the Government's announcement of the Better Deal for Bus Users, pledging investment in local buses, and the £5 billion funding for active travel and bus improvements. The Prime Minister's response to my question on funding for buses through the national bus strategy was clear - investment in buses is coming and we need to be ready to claim our share.
Having reliable, regular bus networks is a critical part of any transport network and there's no question we need to do better. As a local MP I very much look forward to being even more involved in the process so that we can improve public transport across our local communities.
Read my response to the report in the Star