"Unacceptable" - City Region mayor Dan Jarvis calls five per cent transport fare hike ‘tone deaf’

A plan by transport operators including First, Stagecoach and others to hike bus and tram fares across South Yorkshire has been called ‘tone deaf’ by the region’s mayor.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 4:24 pm
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MP

A plan by transport operators including First, Stagecoach and others to hike bus and tram fares across South Yorkshire has been called ‘tone deaf’ by the region’s mayor.

South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis hit out at plans by the transport companies to increase fares by five per cent on certain tickets.

Mayor Jarvis criticised the firms and said: “Their attitude seems to be ‘you pay for the infrastructure and we’ll put up the fares’.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He went on to say the move will be seen as ‘an attempt to profit from the fare-paying public as they consider returning to public transport’.

TravelMaster are applying a five per cent price rise to their range of products, including 1-Day and 7-Day tickets purchased on board, from June 7, 2021.

TravelMaster are a commercial organisation owned and operated by the region’s transport companies. The companies work together through TravelMaster to deliver multi-operator tickets.

The move comes after millions of pounds were given to operators to keep services running during the pandemic.

Sheffield City Region bosses said the authority and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) invested £17m to keep bus services running during the pandemic.

“This is beyond frustrating – it is unacceptable,” Mayor Jarvis said.

“Price rises just weeks before the final easing of lockdown measures will understandably be seen as an attempt to profit from the fare-paying public as they consider returning to public transport.

“It will damage efforts to get people back on the buses, and hit them in their pockets at a time of great economic uncertainty.”

A plan to completely overhaul the bus system is being drawn up and all options, including public ownership and franchising, are on the table.

“After so much public support it’s not just tone deaf, it calls into question the effort to build a functioning partnership with bus companies as we reform our bus services,” Mayor Jarvis added.

“First and Stagecoach talk to us about the value they attach to working in an ‘enhanced partnership’ – and then in practice their attitude seems to be: ‘You pay for the infrastructure; and we’ll put up the fares’. It’s just not good enough.

“We need a fundamentally different partnership with the bus companies, and we are looking at all options, including franchising.”

The Mayoral Combined Authority has recently announced plans to extend reduced fares for young people.

From June 2021 a single fare will cost 80p for everyone aged 11 – 21. The discount will remain in place for a year and is an extension of the existing concession for 18 – 21 year olds.

TravelMaster, which is which sets multi-operator ticket prices for South Yorkshire’s public transport services, includes First, Stagecoach Yorkshire, Northern, TM Travel, Stagecoach Supertram and HCT Group as board members.

Matt Smallwood, managing director of TravelMaster, said: “Our region continues to have some of the lowest priced integrated transport tickets in the country, and in a number of cases these remain less than the cost in 2012. Unlimited weekly travel on buses in Sheffield, for example, is nearly £5 less than in London where prices are heavily subsidised and were raised again in March this year.

“We have worked hard over the past decade to keep prices low, and even lower for young people.

"However, costs have continued to increase as a result of insufficient investment in bus priority measures and a lack of action on road congestion, which is growing again as the region emerges from lockdown.

"This has made services slower and less sustainable at current prices. These fare increases that were due to be implemented earlier, pay for operating costs of services that have continued to increase during the pandemic.

“Last year, we made cheaper prices available to more young people by widening dedicated discounts to over 18s up to the age of 22. Our GetAbout ticket for 18s and under also provides some of the lowest priced travel in the country.”

*

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.