Tuesday, February 4, 2014

News: Free bus set to stop in Rotherham

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It could be the end of the line for the popular free bus service between Rotherham town centre and Parkgate as transport chiefs look to make big budget savings from April.

The proposed cutbacks, which are due to be considered this week by councillors, come as South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority aim to make savings of around 10% to their annual budget.

Under the proposals the two FreeBee bus services in Sheffield and Rotherham centres, which are funded by public subsidy, would be discontinued from the end of April.

Introduced in Rotherham in 2009, the free service runs every 12 minutes from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday between the main retail areas of Parkgate Shopping and Rotherham town centre, whilst also running around the town linking areas such as the council offices on Main Street, Rotherham Leisure Complex, the markets and the bus station.

At the end of its first year of operation, the service, known as the FreeBee, was carrying an average of up to 9,000 passengers every week with market research showing that it was leading to people shopping more in both the town centre and Parkgate.

The SYPTE works in partnership with the local councils and transport service operators to manage public transport infrastructure, run the local bus, train and tram services and provide walking and cycling routes.

Over the past three years SYPTE has had its budget slashed by more than £17m and has made deep cuts in its workforce. The budget cuts which SYPTE/SYITA is making to its budget for next year total £8.3m, and is faced with reducing its workforce by a further 16%.

The reduction in tendered bus services which includes the FreeBee services in Rotherham and Sheffield is set to save £870k in 2014/15 and £80k in 2015/16.

Cllr Mick Jameson, Chairman of South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (SYITA), which oversees the work of SYPTE, said: "We don't like having to raise fares and cut back on services but when your budgets are being slashed then there simply isn't a great deal of choice. The savings have to come from somewhere."

Other proposals to be discussed include scaling back the OAP and disabled persons concessionary travel scheme by removing free travel on South Yorkshire's trains.

SYPTE website

Images: Thomas Cousins via Wikimedia Commons

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