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Bring Back our Buses!: Help ACORN fight for truly public transport

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P L Chadwick (Geograph.org)

We live in one of the UK's major cities. Decent, reliable, affordable bus services shouldn't be too much to expect and it wasn't long ago that this was the reality. Older Sheffielders may remember the 10p adult fares for which our city was famed and less than 20 years ago adult fares were still under £1. How did it go so wrong?

On 1 September, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, working with Sheffield's private bus companies, implemented some of the most significant changes to our bus routes in years, resulting in some routes being scrapped entirely and others re-routed, leaving communities without an accessible service. Meanwhile there has been no marked improvement in the quality of vehicles and access remains a real problem for passengers with disabilities.

Since we launched in 2016, ACORN Sheffield have put much of our community organising efforts into protecting private tenants' rights, targeting unscrupulous landlords who have failed in their responsibilities. In collaboration with our branches across the country we have made great advancements for our members. We continue to work in the best interests of our community and as such we are now concentrating our efforts on improving bus services in Sheffield, just as our comrades in Manchester are.

We want a better system of bus travel for Sheffield

The privatisation of buses was intended to provide the best possible service through allowing private companies to compete for passengers, but since deregulation was introduced in 1986 the result has been the opposite. Bus fares have become disproportionately more expensive whilst whole routes have been slashed, reliability and frequency has decreased, and overall customer satisfaction has plummeted. These new changes to Sheffield's bus services have been met with widespread opposition from the city's passengers, with a petition opposing cuts to routes in Walkley and Gleadless collecting over 600 signatures before being handed to the Council, with two councillors and a local MP among the signatories.

Under the current system there's no way for us to force bus companies to change. Stagecoach and First, who together run the vast majority of buses in Sheffield, are multinational corporations with revenues many times that of Sheffield City Council. They have proved time and time again their intransigence, verging on open contempt for their passengers; the ten pence rise in fares on the first of April each year makes it abundantly clear who they consider the fools. The intolerable conditions of public transport in our city and the abject refusal of our bus companies to listen to their users have left us with no choice but to pursue a more effective solution.

If franchising can work in our capital city, it can work in Sheffield

We want a better system of bus travel for Sheffield that truly works in the best interests of its customers, and that is why we are calling for our buses to be brought under franchise. Whilst public ownership of the buses would be a superior solution, this is banned by current legislation. Franchising - a system in which local authorities set routes, timetables and fares that are then put out to tender on each route - is one of the options allowed under the Bus Services Act 2017.

Franchising would enable the Council or the Sheffield City Region Mayor to take greater control of bus services, reflecting the situation in London, where Transport for London, which is directly accountable to the Mayor, decides what bus services are provided, including routes, timetables and fares. If franchising can work in our capital city, it can work in Sheffield.

We acknowledge that franchising will only make our bus services better if our local authorities are willing to make use of their powers, and so at ACORN Sheffield we have five targets for a final deal that would change how we travel in our city for the better:

- An affordable, flat-rate ticket fare.

- Reliable Sunday and night services.

- Better links between South Yorkshire's regions.

- Protection for bus service workers' rights.

- Commitment to high emissions standards to lessen the impact on our environment.

We want to help make our bus services in Sheffield first-class. If you do too, please support us in our campaign.

Isaac Hanson & Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen

acorntheunion.org.uk

Next article in issue 139

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