Doncaster councillors want buses back under public control

Doncaster Council has joined its South Yorkshire neighbours in calling for buses to be brought back into public control.

Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 8:59 am
Public transport campaigners outside Doncaster Council's Civic Office
Public transport campaigners outside Doncaster Council's Civic Office

Councillors debating a motion by Mexborough First member Andy Pickering was passed following a small amendment from the ruling Labour group.

Doncaster councillors are urging the South Yorkshire Combined Authority (SYCA) to now get the ball rolling and to follow the lead of West Yorkshire and Manchester who are further down the line in pursuing this.

Coun Pickering urged swift action on the issue and called on a costings programme to be drawn up as soon as possible.

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A small number of protestors gathered outside Civic Office urging councillors to back the motion and to put pressure on the SYCA to begin the process of bringing buses back into public control.

SYCA is stepping into an Enhanced Partnership with bus operators which aims to improve the network with closer working between councils, the combined authority and operators.

But the motion passed by councillors mirrors the view of the Centre for Cities think-tank who called them a ‘fudge which stops mayors from delivering the quality bus networks the electorate rightfully expect’. A UN special rapporteur also called for them to be ‘phased out’.

Mayor Dan Jarvis, who is stepping down in May, has previously said the Enhanced Partnership arrangement is the only way for South Yorkshire to get access to millions of pounds from central government’s ‘Bus Back Better scheme’ and the process of public control is being looked into.

Better Buses campaigner Matthew Topham said: “We’ve heard yet more heart-wrenching stories about local towns that have seen services cut from every 20 minutes to once an hour, isolating older people and reducing job opportunities.

“Why are the region’s leaders allowing private companies to force residents to buy and run expensive and polluting cars?”

“The (South Yorkshire) mayor’s own review of bus services said that if our ambition is high, only franchising will do. That’s because it is the only way to make sure the bus network is about meeting community needs.

“What’s more, all four local councils have now pledged to back bringing buses into public control — what’s the excuse for the delay?”

A number of councillors spoke at the substandard services in Doncaster and with some saying they were ‘unreliable’ with some communities now cut off without a regular service in the borough’s more rural villages.

Hatfield councillor Duncan Anderson said he would rather walk 30 minutes to catch a train into Doncaster town centre rather than getting a bus because he said they ‘couldn’t be relied on’.