Cheaper bus fares are just one of the options that will be under consideration in an independent review of bus travel in South Yorkshire commissioned by city region mayor Dan Jarvis.
The review, which will be chaired by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, will report in nine to 12 months time and look at ‘all options’ for improving services.
As well as cheaper fares, this could also mean more routes and more environmentally friendly buses, with the Mayor hoping to arrest an alarming 18 per cent slump in passenger numbers over the last 10 years.
Mr Betts said ‘anything and everything’ will be on the table for the review, which will be modelled on a parliamentary select committee inquiry.
He said: “We want to find out what is happening from people who use the buses and from people who can’t use them anymore because they are too expensive or their route has been taken away. The cost of buses is clearly an issue for people.
“We will be asking people to come forward with evidence about what is right or wrong with the current system.
“I’m looking forward to working with others to gather evidence from a variety of stakeholders, interest groups and members of the public and providing recommendations to the Mayor on how he could take steps to improve the public transport system and ensure its fit for the 21st century.”
Mr Betts said the review will look both at the factors behind falling bus ridership as well as how the service could be improved in the future.
While he accepted the Mayor’s current powers don’t allow him to compel bus companies to enact any recommendations, this could be done were he to be given additional powers via an act of Parliament.
Announcing the review, Dan Jarvis said: “One of the main issues residents contact me about is bus services across our region. We need to understand the reasons for declining passenger numbers and take action where improvements are needed.
"More than a quarter of households in South Yorkshire don't have access to a car, and many people want to reduce the number of journeys by - not least to travel in a greener, more active and more sustainable way.
“Buses therefore provide vital access to jobs, education, public services and social activities. It's crucial that services are fit for purpose.
“That’s why, today, I have announced that Clive Betts MP will chair our bus review and examine all aspects of South Yorkshire’s bus services.
“He will then provide me with recommendations and identify improvements. This should mean more environmentally friendly buses, more routes and more passengers.”
An outspoken critic of the current model, Mr Betts last year pointed to a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report which revealed that poor bus services were holding back low-income families from achieving a better standard of living.
At the time, he said: "The cost of public transport is a significant national problem but it's a major problem in our part of the world - it's really expensive. If you look at the history of public transport in Sheffield it's just got worse.
"Sheffield and the rest of South Yorkshire has probably had the biggest fare increase and the biggest reduction in the number of people using them in the country over the last 30 years and the two go hand in hand."
“If people look at a job and what they are going to get is going to be eaten into by the cost of getting there, then that's going to be a deterrent to them accepting a job."