Passengers cry out for Leeds bus revamp

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Passengers have demanded an overhaul of Leeds’ public transport system as late and cancelled buses wreak havoc on their daily lives.

The call follows comments by Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake who told a meeting of Leeds businesspeople that residents in her ward said they had lost their jobs due to buses being late.

The YEP asked readers about their own experiences of using public transport and people responded in their hundreds to highlight problems.

Rosemary Hughes said her journey to work was a two and three-quarter hour trek for a six-mile each way commute.

“You can actually fly Leeds Bradford Airport to Alicante in less time than I take to travel 12 miles a day,” she said.

“I never ever catch the bus if I have to be somewhere at a certain time, I always take a taxi.”

Monair McBurnie said she had to leave a job in the city centre because the buses were consistently late on her journey from Harehills.

She said: “I wasn’t able to get there on time and they put me on a warning. It seemed unfair for something out of my control.

“I thought ‘I’ve got to get a new job before I get sacked – I’ve got a house to run.”

Jessica Gelder said: “I’ve been late for work several times because buses haven’t turned up.

“I’ve waited in the freezing cold for 45 minutes on a morning which is ridiculous when they advertise they are up to every 10 minutes.”

Stuart Long, a campaigner for better transport public transport, said he was late to visit his mother before an operation on Boxing Day when the service from Burley to St James’s Hospital failed to stop.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “If you are waiting for a service that is late or doesn’t come at all, the confidence people have in that service inevitably drops and it can cause major problems for those people who rely on those services as part of their daily lives. Buses are a commercial organisation and what we are saying is ‘actually it’s a social service, a service for people, and it should be run in terms of people’s needs’. Because of the privatisation of the bus service it is difficult so we’re trying to work with the bus companies to serve the people’s needs.

“The ambition we have set out with the transport conversation and strategy is to make all elements of the transport network in Leeds and beyond the best they can possibly be.

“To make a real difference you need to improve all different types of transport modes rather than just one, as giving people the choice and especially offering an attractive, efficient and reliable public transport network in terms of buses, trains and park and ride is the key to making people think twice about just getting in their car if they have one.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said Leeds should have the ambition to create a state-of-the-art transport system for Leeds that will rival other major cities in the future but needed to reduce the amount of traffic using the roads in the short term.

She said a London style “Oyster Card” system of ticketless travel should form part of the plan. It would, she said, help to integrate the two main bus companies in Leeds, First and Arriva, and help to control costs.

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn said more power to regulate services should be returned to the city. He said: “Constituents feel that when problems with changes in routes come up, that they have very little influence on what bus companies choose to do. What we need in Leeds is the power to run and to regulate buses. London has had this power for a number of years, and if it’s good enough for the capital then it’s good enough for Leeds.”