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Leeds and West Yorkshire: Inquiry launched as bus user numbers plummet

DWINDLING NUMBERS: Passengers at Leeds bus station. PIC: Mark Bickerdike

DWINDLING NUMBERS: Passengers at Leeds bus station. PIC: Mark Bickerdike

An inquiry has been launched in Leeds into bus services as figures show the number of journeys made across West Yorkshire have plummeted by more than a fifth.

Passengers made 235m journeys in 1995-96 compared to an estimated 180m in 2011-12 - a staggering drop of more than 20 per cent.

A survey carried out by Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves earlier this year indicated high levels of dissatisfaction over rising fares and what people judged to be poor levels of service.

And now Leeds City Council’s sustainable economy and culture scrutiny board has launched an inquiry to consider what can be done to encourage more people to use the buses.

A report to the board said the fall in the number of journeys made had come against a background of reduced service levels and sustained above inflation fare increases.

It added: “These are significant issues for the authority because the consequences include reduced productivity, increased carbon dioxide emissions and reduce quality of life through increased congestion and reduced accessibility.”

The average adult peak fare for all operators in West Yorkshire increased from £1.08 in 2004 to £1.66 in 2010.

This was an increase of 54 per cent while inflation during the same period rose by just 20 per cent.

The report said reliability and punctuality were also causes of concern for bus users.

In a bid to reduce journey times a number of initiatives have been carried out or are in the pipeline.

They include the A65 quality bus corridor, an outward bound bus lane of the A647, a bus priority scheme along Harrogate Road in Chapel Allerton, bus lane enforcement to strop them being used by other vehicles and priority for buses at busy junctions.

Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con, Guiseley and Rawdon) said: “The big issue is that if bus services do not do what people want then patronage goes down.

“We have seen some bus priority measures and more are planned but there needs to be consultation with the public and the bus operators to make sure they are the right priority measures.”

Coun Mohammed Rafique, board chairman, said the relatively high fares charged for shorter journeys discouraged people from using buses.

A further session of the inquiry is scheduled for next month and the board will then produce a report and recommendations.

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