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Passengers demand politicians take action on shoddy bus services in South Yorkshire

Councillors from the region's four local authorities were invited to the meeting – but only Sheffield showed up.

Stagecoach bus 22639 MAN Alexander Dennis Enviro300 YN08 JDU in Sheffield 24 March 2009 1
Ultra7 (Wikimedia Commons)

Angry bus passengers called on South Yorkshire's politicians to take action to improve the poor quality of services at a virtual meeting on Thursday night.

Campaign group Better Buses for South Yorkshire wants Council Leaders to support bringing buses back under public control – a decision that ultimately rests with the Mayor of South Yorkshire.

Such a move would see the introduction of a franchising model, where routes, timetables and fares are set by the mayor's office rather than private bus companies like First and Stagecoach.

"As the climate crisis worsens, the need to move away from cars and towards public transport increases," said a member of community union ACORN.

"Yet anyone who doesn’t have a car in South Yorkshire is punished with convoluted routes, soaring prices, buses that never turn up and buses that are too full to be safe. This affects the most vulnerable members in our community."

Council Leaders in Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster were invited to the meeting following hundreds of emails from disgruntled passengers, but all said they couldn't come.

The four leaders were asked to send a representative to the meeting instead, but only Sheffield and Rotherham councils agreed to do so. In the end only Douglas Johnson, Executive Member for Transport at Sheffield Council, turned up to listen to passengers.

Better Buses campaign organisers urged Cllr Johnson and his South Yorkshire counterparts to pass motions calling on the mayor to kickstart the process of introducing a franchising system.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham initiated the same process in March, while West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has asked her team to "urgently progress" the case for franchising, calling the current privatised system "broken".

Phil Bown, who represents South Yorkshire's bus drivers at Unite the Union, told the 50 attendees of the meeting that he was "not here to ask councillors to pass this motion, I'm here to demand it."

"My drivers are the experts, they know how to run a service," said Bown. "I am fighting day after day to stop people leaving this industry, but it's a losing battle."

David Kirkham of disability rights group DPAC Sheffield told the meeting that journey times are "excessively long and tiring for disabled people."

"Our needs and basic human rights as disabled people in South Yorkshire are mostly treated as an afterthought" he said, adding that poor quality buses meant that disabled people are "unable to access services on an equal basis or live independent lives."

Cllr Johnson said that as a minority group on Sheffield Council Green Party councillors only have a limited number of motions they can put forward, but that he would look into it.

"Buses should be in public control and should be run as a public service," he said.

The Better Buses for South Yorkshire campaign are planning further public meetings in the run-up to next year's election, which will see a new mayor replace the outgoing Dan Jarvis.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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