Wednesday, June 24, 2020

News: South Yorkshire bus review findings announced


Insufficient funding, lack of leadership and a lack of accountability are the three root causes in the decline in bus passenger numbers in South Yorkshire, the Independent Bus Commission has found.

The commission, chaired by Clive Betts MP, shared their findings and recommendations with Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, who commissioned the review last year.

The Bus Review Report, which was concluded before the Coronavirus pandemic, took into consideration the experiences and feedback from 5,900 members of the public, bus users, community groups, businesses and interest groups, of the impact poor and unreliable bus services have had on their lives. This evidence, as well as evidence from bus operators, local authorities, the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and others, has contributed towards the findings and a number of recommendations aimed at providing passengers with a bus service that meets their needs.

Rotherham had the highest percentage of survey respondents that were very dissatisfied with bus reliability (35%). Poor connectivity to the key asset of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham is also highlighted.

On funding, evidence from Campaign for Better Transport estimated that funding for bus services in England has fallen by more than £162m (43%) since 2009/10. These figures are similar in South Yorkshire, where SYPTE's budget has declined by 40% over the last decade.

The report found a lack of leadership by bus operators, SYPTE, local authorities and the Sheffield City Region Executive team. The review found that there were too many layers of leadership without the leverage and power to be able to deliver real change, and the opportunity for single leadership in the Mayor had been impeded by the lack of a devolution deal agreed with Government.

Regarding accountability, the review found that having an arms-length organisation, such as SYPTE, has not allowed local authorities the opportunity to make decisions about bus services – but has allowed them to shy away from responsibility.


The review recommended that a simpler ticketing system and the exploration of innovative fare structures were investigated. The review highlighted concerns about SYPTE's leadership of the bus partnership and their approach to holding operators to account.

Over the last decade this has all resulted in poor frequency, poor reliability and poor quality and accessibility of services across South Yorkshire.

The review also found that there was poor connectivity between bus services and other modes of transport. One example, which was presented to the commission, meant that a four-mile journey required three changes, and the hourly bus service arrived after the hourly train service had departed.

Commissioners heard from passengers and representative groups about how bus service changes had impacted their lives, in some cases experiencing life-changing consequences. User groups highlighted the distress and confusion that service changes cause passengers, particularly disabled passengers.

Evidence also showed that passengers were having to endure bus service changes on a more regular basis than the timescales detailed in the bus partnership. Examples were also cited of bus routes being discontinued or re-routed without sufficient communication and lack of meaningful consultation.

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: "Our bus system is vitally important for our economy and environment, and for too long it has been neglected. Passengers have suffered. Following the findings of the review and its recommendations, we owe it to them to provide a first-class bus service and one they can rely on.

"In difficult circumstances, with yearly cuts to budgets, we have lost sight of what a good bus service looks like and it's time that we regain this perspective. This is not going to be an easy task, especially in the current climate of a health and economic crisis. But we do now have a golden opportunity to build back better – providing a bus system that properly serves passengers, the economy and the environment."

SCR website

Images: SYPTE


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