A total of £3.8 million will be allocated by West Yorkshire Combined Authority to safeguard and reinstate bus services that face the threat of cuts by private operators.
At a meeting in Leeds last Friday (7th July), councillors on the Transport Committee agreed to this course of action.
The region’s bus services primarily operate on a commercial basis, with bus companies receiving support from the Combined Authority for unprofitable routes.
The changes in travel patterns following the Covid-19 pandemic have adversely affected revenues, leading operators to reduce the number of routes and frequencies.
In recent years, the Combined Authority has increasingly intervened to support the network in cases where commercial operators have failed. However, it is unable to rescue every route.
Furthermore, recent alterations in government funding for buses have raised concerns that operators may further withdraw their services in the upcoming months.
The Combined Authority is urging operators to postpone any changes so that replacement services can be procured.
Members of the Transport Committee have approved the allocation of £3.8 million from the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) Plus fund to safeguard at-risk services and reinstate routes that were lost due to previous cuts.
The Combined Authority is appealing to the government to release the funding at the earliest opportunity to expedite its utilisation for services.
Additionally, efforts have been made to collaborate with private operators in order to mitigate the impact of recently announced timetable changes.
Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said; “A well-functioning bus network is a vital part of my vision for a better-connected West Yorkshire.
“This money will help protect the network where the market has failed.
“In the meantime, I would urge bus operators to work with us to avoid cutting back further on much needed bus services.”
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and Transport portfolio lead for West Yorkshire Combined Authority, added; “Buses are the most widely used form of public transport in the region – and perform a vital public service.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure communities do not suffer where the commercial network fails to deliver.
“This move is part of our ambition for a more cohesive, reliable bus service which gets people where they need to go, when they need to go.”
As part of the BSIP, the Combined Authority will also invest nearly £30 million over the next three years to enhance and introduce new bus services throughout the region.
From September, this includes an approved £4.3 million package that incorporates improved bus services such as new routes, reduced fares, and increased frequencies in Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, and Calderdale.
Collaboration between the Combined Authority, Wakefield Council, and local operators will ensure the delivery of an improved service package in the autumn.
Officials will also assess how to best utilise the BSIP Plus funding within the district to safeguard and reinstate services. Further details on this initiative will be confirmed later this summer.
The Combined Authority is also taking steps to achieve greater public control over services, thereby enhancing the quality of bus services in the long run.
The Transport Committee of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority approved the BSIP Plus proposals on Friday, July 7, 2023. For more information, please refer to the following link: https://westyorkshire.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=138&MId=1311.