Call for control of South Yorkshire's bus services to be brought back into public control

A call to end deregulation of local bus services has been made in a move which would hark back to a different political era in South Yorkshire.

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 4:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 11:35 am

Until the county council was disbanded in 1986, the so-called People’s Republic of South Yorkshire provided bus passengers with heavily subsidised fares.

That was ended by legislation in the Thatcher era, with services broadly expected to operate on a profit-making basis during the intervening decades.

That has seen fares become increasingly expensive and services cut as users have migrated to private cars.

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Buses in Sheffield city centre. Picture: Steve Ellis

Now the Yorkshire and Humber Pensioners’ Convention (YHPC) has launched its own manifesto for public transport, which calls on deregulation to be ended.

Their manifesto states: “Central government and many local councils have now declared a climate emergency.

"This should mean that they recognise that the climate crisis needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

"Transport is responsible for 28 per cent of CO2 emissions.

"A change in transport policies must be central to any attempt to deal effectively with the crisis.

"Passenger cars are responsible for over 50 per cent of transport related carbon emissions."

An end to deregulation would mean control of services going into public ownership, where the priority would switch to quality of services rather than profits.

The YHPC acknowledges the big policy decisions would have to be made by Government, but have called on local authorities to put their weight behind their campaign.

London was the only area of the country to escape deregulation and is now regarded by many as a beacon of successful bus services.

South Yorkshire’s public transport is controlled to some extent by the county’s Passenger Transport Authority, a political body which controls the Passenger Transport Executive.

That body has powers to subsidise services where they are a necessity but would not generate a profit for operators.

It has limited funds, so is restricted in how subsidies can be applied, with some rural services being reduced in recent years.

In the 1980s, South Yorkshire County Council’s policy on subsidised bus fares was criticised by some because of the drain it created on public finances.