Transport bosses in Leeds are vowing to overhaul the city’s creaking bus network – and to continue to push for franchising powers with or without an elected mayor – after the conclusion of a major year long inquiry.
The Government has said that only areas which agree to have elected mayors will be given automatic local bus franchising powers under new laws.
But a Leeds City Council led probe into provision in the city has pledged to push the Secretary of State on the issue, as well as piling pressure on existing bus operators to improve services.
The cross-party panel City Development panel concluded that: “We are ultimately disappointed that franchising powers under the Bus Services Act will currently be limited for West Yorkshire without Secretary of State intervention.”
In its summary report following five inquiry sessions which heard from a string of expert witnesses, the panel said it was “unanimous in its belief that bus franchising decisions should be made locally, to drive improvement in bus provision”.
“There is also unanimity in the view that all Combined Authorities (mayoral or non-mayoral) should have the option, if they wish, to be a franchising authority,” the panel concluded.
The final feedback session of the City Development panel’s bus inquiry at Leeds Civic Hall was told that the key thing was to put “community to community” services at the heart of the changes, as many communities had been left “high and dry” by services disappearing over the years due to purely economic rather than social reasons.
Councillor Paul Truswell, chair of the City Development scrutiny panel, said: “Over the last 30 years, my recollection is a litany of services have been chopped and changed and whole communities have lost their [bus] connections because it’s not been commercially expedient for the providers.
“We now have the Bus Act with new powers. I’d like to explore the possibility that we make a submission to the Secretary of State to exercise those powers, even if we don’t ultimately vote in a regional mayor.”