Huge public bill if South Yorkshire leaders want to cover private operator bus cuts

South Yorkshire politicians would have to stump up £11 million to replace all bus services that are planned to be cut by private operators for just six months, Mayor Oliver Coppard has said.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 10:32 am

Residents are being asked which services are most important to them as the region braces for further bus cuts in October.

Passengers in the region face the loss of a third of the bus network this autumn, when government funding provided to operators throughout the pandemic ends.

Mayor Coppard and council leaders have already had to step in with over £5 million from the region’s emergency budget to protect school buses.

South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard. Credit: Howard Roe

But the public budget for South Yorkshire’s buses – paid through people’s council tax – will only stretch to cover half of the remaining services bus companies plan to cut, the mayor said.

Between October 2022 and April 2023, South Yorkshire’s public budget to support bus services – part of the council tax residents pay for public transport – is £11.9 million.

It is estimated to cost at least £23 million to replace all the services that bus companies plan to remove.

Under South Yorkshire’s current system, bus companies are free to decide where and when they will run services. When bus companies withdraw services, as they are expected to do in October when government funding stops, SYMCA can pay other companies to run the route.

Further bus cuts across South Yorkshire are expected by October.

But many routes did not even receive a bid from private firms to run the routes when a tender process went out earlier this year.

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said; “We are facing the biggest and most devastating bus cuts for a generation, because of a broken system which is failing passengers.

“A reliable, affordable, clean bus service is vital, not just so everyone can get to where they need to go, but so they can get there without using a car, cutting the toxic traffic choking our region.

“As the private sector bus companies look to cut services, I’ve said I’ll do everything I can to keep our buses going until I get the powers and money I need to transform the network.

“I’m moving as fast as the law currently allows to assess bringing in more public control through franchising, and I’ve called on the government for emergency funding to keep services going.

“But the budget we have to support buses is limited and will not stretch to fill all the gaps. Public money can only buy back around half the services bus companies plan to cut.”

People can give their views on support for bus services at travelsouthyorkshire.com/haveyoursay, by picking up a paper survey from a Travel South Yorkshire Interchange or by calling Traveline on 01709 515151.