Falling passenger numbers, high levels of dissatisfaction and ageing fleets are just some of the reasons why Doncaster needs a bus partnership, council and travel chiefs have said.
Cabinet members on Doncaster Council rubber-stamped plans to bring together the authority, bus operators and travel executives to work closer together and tackle current issues.
A reduction year on year to bus subsidies from central Government means there is less money in the pot.
Although the council say the bus partnership is ‘long over due’, it does come with timetable shake-ups and cuts to some services across the town.
A report also revealed that Doncaster was given Sheffield’s old buses and new town buses going the other way - all because of Doncaster not being in a bus partnership.
The Doncaster Bus Partnership agreement is planned to help provide a bus network that meets the needs of the town’s residents.
Working together with operators, it is claimed it will help to improve reliability and ensure buses turn up on time.
Council bosses have also said that the authority will now have a greater say in where buses run to run in certain areas.
The partnership aims to add better ticketing products, better quality buses and stability in the network to encourage growth in patronage and help to reduce congestion in the road network.
A consultation, which ran for four weeks during November and December, reached 85,000 people - but only had 1,287 respondents.
A report showed that 44 per cent of residents responded to the consultation said that changes would make journeys ‘much worse’.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive admitted that the changes will have a negative effect on some passengers including disabled residents.
It said: “It is acknowledged that network changes which extend walking distances or remove direct links which results in the need for travelling on more than one bus and/or increases standing time or exposure to the elements whilst waiting for a connecting service will disbenefit some bus users in this category.”
It was claimed that Doncaster will be ‘left behind’ if a partnership approach is was not adopted. Sheffield and Rotherham already have a similar arrangement in place.
Steve Shannon, strategic infrastructure manager at Doncaster Council said: “Doncaster’s bus network has suffered over the past few years with passenger numbers going down. We’ve seen in Rotherham and Sheffield that already have partnerships are bucking that trend and now have an increase in patronage.
“There are many benefits to being in a partnership and one is the ability to tap into funds that can improve the quality of the buses and bid for funds directly from government.”
“The consultation process that was carried out has seen network changes but some areas have benefitted greatly and I do believe the bus companies have listened.
“Some parts of the consultation will always end up in some people losing out slightly the loss of the 42 service that’s more of a result of a business decision.
“The partnership means that there will be a brighter future for transport in Doncaster.”
Doncaster mayor, Ros Jones said: “Over a quarter of households in Doncaster do not have cars and are very dependent on bus services.
“Without the partnership agreement we have no way of influencing what is happening there and therefore I wholeheartedly support an agreement.
“We all know the bus companies are there to make surpluses but what we want to see is investment and I’m delighted to hear that 20 new buses are going to be on the road.
“The bus partership will be able to provide such a network, it’s been long over due.
“It’s about us getting it right, but like everywhere else like the PTE have had to make reductions and the subsides are being eroded every year.”
But deputy mayor and Hexthorpe Coun Glyn Jones said he was disappointed in cuts to services after being promised they wouldn’t be.
He said: “When the consultation started I attended a meeting and I was told the bus routes in my ward categorically would not be cut.
“When the consultation ended and I went to another meeting I was then told that there would be changes.
“It’s not good form in any way to do that sort of exercise with those perimeters then come up with ‘oh the game’s changed, we’re sorry’. I’m really disappointed in the process.”
The number of passengers travelling by bus in Doncaster fell by seven per cent last year.
A Doncaster Bus Intelligence report issued by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive said the fall was down to a decline in fare paying passengers.
It said the increase of 10p per year since 2012 in child fares was also a big factor.
Commuters in Doncaster are ditching the bus quicker then the rest of the region when heading to and from work and had the lowest level of satisfaction in terms of bus use.
Sheffield’s bus partnership agreement has seen their old buses being sent to Doncaster to aid to meet their targets. In turn, new fleet units in Doncaster are being sent over to Sheffield resulting in an older buses in the town.
The report seen by the Doncaster Free Press warns that the ‘lack of a bus partnership’ would likely to see this trend continue and ‘may hinder’ further investment.
But there has been much anger directed at a similar arrangement in Sheffield. Cuts and changes to many routes in the city left passengers stranded with packed buses.
Bus operators and Sheffield Bus Partnership stakeholders did admit they got it wrong on the consultation process and that ‘lessons had been learnt’.
Over 12,500 people signed a petition to reverse the changes to Sheffield bus services.
The Doncaster Bus Partnership (DBP) will consist of Doncaster Council, bus operators and South Yorkshire Transport Passenger Executive.
Route change responses from residents:
The 41 and 42 service between Doncaster and Scawsby
Around 76 per cent of respondents said the changes would make their journey much worse making trips to the supermarket and doctors much harder. After consultation, bus chiefs decided that the 42 would be retained with the 41 service making way. But SYPTE said that they were unable to fund evening journeys due to low numbers.
The 219/219a and 49 services between Doncaster and Sprotbrough
Around 75 per cent of respondents said the changes would make their journey much worse. SYPTE said that the 219/219a service would continue to run every half an hour but would now not stop at Anchorage Lane and Crompton Road. An alternative bus stop on Sprotbrough Road is being provided.
The 57 and 91 services between Doncaster and Finningley
Over 69 per cent of bus users who responded said that service changes would make their journey much worse.
SYPTE said that the 57 service would replace the 91 service increasing the buses per hour which will introduce a link to Bennetthorpe. This in turn will mean longer journey times into Doncaster.
The 220/221/X78 between Doncaster and Conisbrough
Around 60 per cent of bus users who responded said that changes to the services would make their journeys much worse. SYPTE said that the X78 will reduce from six to four buses per hour but reshuffling the 220/221 and X78 timetables will mean a bus on average of every seven or eight minutes.