In a groundbreaking move set to redefine public transport in West Yorkshire for generations, Mayor Tracy Brabin has made the decisive call to seize control of the region’s bus services. This bold step, heralded as the most significant shake-up in decades, marks a departure from the status quo, as private operators yield to the authority of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The decision, unveiled at the Authority’s meeting in Leeds, sees buses brought under local control through a process known as franchising, a move recommended by the Combined Authority itself. Henceforth, routes, frequencies, fares, and overall standards will be dictated by the Authority, aligning with its vision of an integrated and efficient transport network.

Buses represent the lifeblood of public transport in West Yorkshire, serving as vital conduits connecting communities and facilitating essential journeys to work, school, and social engagements. However, the prevailing deregulated system has witnessed a steady decline in patronage over the years, accompanied by a growing reliance on public funding to sustain services.

Despite efforts outlined in the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), which aimed to address shortcomings, the region continues to grapple with infrequent and unreliable services, culminating in abysmal customer satisfaction ratings, as revealed by a recent Transport Focus survey.

Embracing a franchised model offers Mayor Brabin and the Combined Authority a pathway to realise their ambitions for a more environmentally sustainable and accessible transport network, fostering greater connectivity across West Yorkshire. The decision follows an extensive three-month consultation period, during which an overwhelming majority of respondents voiced their support for franchising.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said; “I’m delighted to announce that we are taking back control of our buses in West Yorkshire, empowering the public to hold me to account for better services.

“For too long, buses have been run in the interests of private companies, not passengers. Franchising will help us build a better-connected bus network that works for all, not just company shareholders.

“But we know that change will not happen overnight – the hard work we’ve been doing to improve the bus network continues while we work at pace to bring this new way of running the buses to our 2.4 million residents.”

In the interim, the Combined Authority remains dedicated to its BSIP, which has already introduced initiatives such as the £2 Mayor’s Fares, enhanced frequencies on key routes, investments in infrastructure, and the launch of new services. Further enhancements are on the horizon, with a new package of bus improvements slated for an announcement in May, underscoring the steadfast commitment to delivering a more robust and efficient public transport network for the region.