Most passengers ‘satisfied’ with South Yorkshire bus services

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MORE than four fifths of South Yorkshire bus users are satisfied with their journeys according to a major national study - as passenger numbers continue to grow.

The result of the national Passenger Focus Bus Passenger Survey comes as statistics show bus journey numbers in the county have risen sharply.

According to the Bus Passenger Survey, 84 per cent of passengers in South Yorkshire were either ‘very or fairly’ satisfied with their journeys.

The figure for the survey, carried out last autumn, is slightly down by two per cent on 2011, when the study was last carried out.

But only 59 per cent of people thought fares were value for money - and that was before latest fare rises were announced.

First has already announced most single tickets are going up by 10p and overall fares by 2.5 per cent from April 1.

Now Stagecoach has announced an average increase of three per cent on its buses.

Full-fare-paying passenger numbers rose 2.8 per cent in the first three months of the Sheffield Bus Partnership, which has seen services altered and tickets launched for use on different operators’ services - sparking a call for Doncaster to get a similar arrangement.

The Sheffield network had suffered years of declining patronage.

Doncaster Coun Mick Jameson, who is chairman of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, said he would like to see a scheme similar to the Sheffield Bus Partnership brought in for Doncaster.

He said: “It gives better value for money and means buses run more frequently to their timetables.”

He said the survey results fitted with what he heard from passengers in Doncaster.

“What people get upset with in Doncaster is punctuality, when buses are running late for whatever reason, and connectivity issues.

“That is because people are concerned that they have to get, for instance, two buses to get to the Doncaster Royal Infirmary from Balby, because they have to change. It means they pay two premium fares to get there.”

Other figures in the national survey showed 59 per cent of South Yorkshire passengers were satisfied with punctuality, and 85 per cent with journey times.

But the survey highlighted a need for drivers to be friendlier. Only 64 per cent of people were satisfied with their welcome from drivers, and 66 per cent with their ‘helpfulness and attitude’.

Only 68 per cent of people felt the seats were comfy enough, and 73 per cent of people were satisfied with the ‘general condition and maintenance’ of buses.

But good news came from a four per cent increase in the number of people who felt safe at bus stops, up from 73 per cent to 77 per cent, and satisfaction with bus stops which rose from 75 per cent to 79 per cent.

Some 1,632 passengers were surveyed in South Yorkshire by Passenger Focus, out of 22,000 people who took part around the country.

In comparison between operators, Stagecoach out-performed First in South Yorkshire, with 87 per cent of passengers satisfied overall, against 81 per cent using First.

First scored increased satisfaction with cleanliness and condition of inside and outside of buses, and smoother journeys, but a decline in satisfaction with bus drivers and punctuality.

Stagecoach suffered a drop in satisfaction with value for money to 67 per cent from 78 per cent in 2011, but the figure was still better than for First, which scored 56 per cent.

Stagecoach’s punctuality rating also fell, although an increased number of passengers were happy with ‘ease of getting on and off the bus’.

Stagecoach said bus fares the Dearne Valley will rise by an average of three per cent from April 1.

Supertram fares are to go up by an average of 2.4 per cent.

The company, which has been hit by ‘rising costs’, said the increase compares with a 14 per cent rise in the annual cost of motoring reported by the RAC.

Paul Lynch, managing director of Stagecoach Yorkshire, said: “We are facing continued rising costs in a number of areas of our business. We have worked hard to keep fares down for those who rely on the bus the most.”