Tuesday, January 6, 2015

News: Further budget reduction for city region transport services

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Rotherham Council's levy to fund transport services in the region is set to be £13m for 2015/16 after the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority met to discuss the budget for the coming year.

The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (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.

Funding comes from the government and levies from South Yorkshire's four local authorities and its revenue budget supports concessionary travel, community transport, bus services which are not commercially provided by bus operators, information provision, customer assistance, Interchange operations, provision and maintenance of bus stops, tram and train services.

The SCR Combined Authority brings together an integrated transport authority (ITA) and an economic prosperity board (EPB) in order to align political decision making around strategic economic development and transport.

Over the past four years SYPTE has had its budget cut by more than £25m and has made deep cuts to its workforce. That has meant that some changes have been made to save money.

Rothbiz reported in September that funded bus services were not expected to be cut and no changes were planned to the concessionary fares scheme but staff at interchanges were under threat as the SYPTE reviewed information provision, ticketing and the level of staffing and service provided in interchanges.

Last year saw cutbacks made to the OAP concessionary travel scheme, community transport fares went up by 50p and funding was withdrawn from the FreeBee bus services in Sheffield and Rotherham.

The report states that a 10% savings target is proposed but this is expected to be achieved without further changes to the discretionary concessions for older and disabled people, or raising the 70p child fare.

The total received from the four local South Yorkshire councils for the financial year is set to be £68.381m, and these levies have also been controlled by an accounting procedure that saw a £30.5m grant used to extend the repayment period of significant deficits, much of it still remaining from the capital costs of the Sheffield Supertram network that opened in 1994. A further grant between the combined authority and the SYPTE may be made in the future.

Following a period of consultation, the 2015/16 savings suggest a number of changes which include stopping printing paper timetables funded by SYPTE and relying on at-stop and internet options instead; reducing the level of cleaning in Interchanges and at bus stops/shelters; and also replacing Transport Information Centres (located at Interchanges across South Yorkshire) with kiosks, web and other alternatives, some of which are more accessible to customers.

David Young, deputy interim director general at the SYPTE, said: "Resource reductions to local government are being felt across the country but particularly in the North, and this inevitably means reductions to public transport funding. We have, and continue to, work hard with operators and our local authority partners and this year we are pleased to be able to propose a budget which avoids reductions to local bus services and concessionary travel.

"However, the savings will see SYPTE's workforce reduced by 45% from 2010/11 levels and the 10% budget reduction is on top of 25% already delivered since this time."

Key Rotherham projects for the SYPTE in the coming year include involvement in the Rotherham Bus Partnership, representations regarding HS2 and rail services in the North, capital projects such as the delayed tram-tram trial and the BRT system to Sheffield and the potential redevelopment of Rotherham bus station.

SYPTE website

Images: SYPTE

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