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"We've been shafted": politicians across South Yorkshire condemn government's bus betrayal

Sheffield is the only major city in England to receive nothing from the government's new £1.1bn fund for buses.

City centre bus stagecoach hallam union
Rachel Rae Photography

Politicians from different parties in South Yorkshire have reacted with anger and disbelief to the news that the government has refused to give the region any money at all to improve its buses.

Sheffield is the only major city in England to receive nothing out of the government's £1.1 billion fund to improve services announced yesterday.

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said that the region had "been shafted", while Sheffield's Green Party leader Douglas Johnson said he was "acutely disappointed and frustrated."

The only money South Yorkshire received from the fund was £570m for capital investment in the transport network – but this money is just to keep services like Supertram operational, rather than to extend the network or make any major improvements.

"We submitted a visionary and detailed bid to transform our bus services; we needed central government to put its money where its mouth is and back our ambition," said Jarvis, who is stepping down as Mayor in May.

"They have once again failed the travelling public in South Yorkshire."

The money would have gone towards the upcoming Enhanced Partnership, a project that will see the private bus companies work with the mayor's office to improve and integrate services without bringing buses back under direct public control.

According to the Better Buses for South Yorkshire campaign, some smaller parts of the Enhanced Partnership, which is due to launch in June, will still go ahead but the more ambitious aims are now unlikely to happen.

That means plans to cap daily and weekly fares, offer free travel to under-18s and create a zero-emission bus fleet are likely to be scrapped.

The disappointing announcement has led to calls for the next mayor, who'll be elected on 6 May, to accelerate plans to bring buses under full public control under a Franchising Model, which is different to the Enhanced Partnership.

Jarvis and the region's four council leaders opened an investigation into franchising in March, but public transport campaigners say local leaders are already expressing concerns over timescales and costs.

In contrast to South Yorkshire, which received nothing, Greater Manchester has been allocated £94.8m and West Yorkshire £70m to improve bus services from the government's £1.1bn fund.

West Yorkshire's Labour mayor, Tracy Brabin, tweeted that "endless beauty contests to access £ from govt for essential services are not the way to level up the north."

"The people of South Yorkshire deserve better buses as does every community struggling with a skeleton bus network after over a decade of underinvestment."

With an election campaign now fully underway, Sheffield's Green Party blamed Jarvis for the region receiving nothing, saying that "people in South Yorkshire will lose out from [the] Mayor’s lack of ambition."

Cllr Johnson accused Jarvis's unsuccessful bid of having "little ambition", while Green candidate for mayor Bex Whyman said that "as long as councils across South Yorkshire continue to undermine bus services by subsidising low-cost parking, the public will suffer.”

Jarvis, who will continue as MP for Barnsley, laid the blame firmly at the government's door, saying that "the government’s so-called commitment to levelling up – which supposedly has buses at its heart – is nothing more than an empty promise."

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