Transport chiefs vote in favour of greater bus control

All change on Leeds’ buses?

Transport chiefs in Leeds have voted in favour taking control  of bus services across West Yorkshire.

In a move that’s a first outside London, passenger transport authority Metro wants to take responsibility for setting routes, fares, timetables and quality standards on bus routes.

Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis has described the all-party decision by the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) to continue to develop its plans to introduce a Bus Quality Contracts Scheme as ‘good news for the county’s bus users’.

Cllr Lewis said:

“The decision, which has cross-party support in West Yorkshire, also has support from bus passengers themselves, as our own consultations and media polling have shown.

“Everyone involved in transport locally realises that we need to do something to make bus travel more attractive and address falling patronage, and that with the taxpayers meeting half the total cost of bus services, there needs to be more accountability.

“Although the ITA welcomed the Association of Bus Operators in West Yorkshire’s offer of enhanced partnership, the proposals currently fall short in the key areas Metro believes there needs to be change - particularly in providing a seamless, common integrated ticketing option without the confusion caused by the current mix of passes that can only be used on one operator’s services or premium-priced multi-operator passes.

“Metro will continue discussions with the bus operators and listen to their suggestions as well as consulting with other partners as it prepares a draft Public Interest Statement.

“I would also like to stress that the Authority’s ambition is to work with operators and District Councils in making local bus services into a growing, not declining, market – which would benefit everyone as well as protecting jobs.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves expressed her pleasure at the decision. Taking to Twitter, Rachel called the news ‘fantastic’ and ‘great news for bus users’.

Reeves said the decision was prompted by great dissatisfaction from the public regarding local bus services. She recently hosted a public meeting regarding the poor bus services in her constituency, attended by representatives from First and Metro, including Cllr James Lewis. Many local people expressed their displeasure regarding rising fares, poor customer service and timetabling.

Reeves said:

“Hundreds of local people have contacted me in the past to express their dissatisfaction with local bus services and private bus operators and I hope they will see improvements as this scheme progresses and that people across Leeds and West Yorkshire can look forward to a bus service that is reliable, affordable and effective.”

Bus operators across the county said they were dismayed the ITA had “rejected partnership plans which would have transformed local bus services across the region”.

Speaking on behalf of the Association of Bus Operators in West Yorkshire, chairman Keith McNally, told BBC online:

“The ITA had been very complimentary about these plans and we believe they have the support of passengers. 

“The plans are the result of long and detailed discussion with the ITA and we are very surprised that they have now turned their back on them and decided instead to ‘go it alone’ rather than work in partnership.”