Bus boss says congestion in Leeds is driving up fares

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With politicians on the campaign trail prior to the General Election in December - the Yorkshire Evening Post has set out its five demands for better input from the new government.

Over this week Emma Ryan asks the people at the heart of these burning issues to make the case for Leeds.

Train cancellation carnage for the last two summers, roads gridlock around the city, bus fares on the increase, doubts over HS2 and Leeds remains the biggest city in Europe not to have a mass transport system.

How does Leeds get the green-light for better transport?

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There are calls for Leeds to be served by more than buses and trains.There are calls for Leeds to be served by more than buses and trains.
There are calls for Leeds to be served by more than buses and trains.

Martin Hirst is the commercial director at First Bus and following a recent price hike in fares he explains the biggest challenges facing operators and why services are more expensive – and unreliable.

Bus boss

“The biggest challenge we face is congestion,” he said.

“Not only is this driving additional cost to the business, but it is slowing journeys and causing unreliable bus services. Whilst value for money is clearly important, research shows that reliability and speed of bus journey are the two most important factors in growing passenger numbers. As a business, we continue to add driver and vehicle cost into services as journey times are increasing just to maintain timetables.

“We are determined to tackle congestion and speed up bus journey times and move to a position where we are reinvesting resource to increase frequencies and keep fares low. This cannot be achieved alone and that is why we are committed to close working with the Combined Authority and the City Council through the Bus Alliance and the Connecting Leeds programme. Work is already underway in supporting these objectives including the extension of both the Elland Road and Temple Green Park and Ride sites as well as the new site at Stourton.

“Our biggest competition is the motor car and the cost of bus services in Leeds remains good value for money. Buying a Week ticket on-bus at £18 is still the equivalent of £1.80/trip when making a return trip Monday to Friday - any incremental trips are then effectively free. A group ticket on the weekend for £7, or after 9:30 Monday-Friday for £9, on bus is great value for families of any income level. The average cost of car ownership is £162 per month without finance and £388 with and the average taxi journey in Leeds is £7.28 each way for a 3km journey.”

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However, a long term public transport user and campaigner believes that the answer doesn’t lie with buses or trains.

Transport campaigner

Transport campaign Stuart Long, from Kirkstall, says that while Burley Park and Headingley are his nearest train stops – he frequently has to walk to get a bus when late or cancelled trains lead to a backlog of passengers with not enough carriages to accommodate them.

Now is the time, he says, to ask the government for the cash to create a mass transport system in Leeds.

Mr Long added: “We need mass transit.

“Leeds City Council is obsessed with bus services. Everything must be a bus. They are all right but we need something that gets from one end of the city to the other and that moves quickly.

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“If you were to go from Pudsey to Seacroft you would need three buses. At Kirkstall Forge railway station, there is one train an hour. Places like Garforth there is one an hour and that is the train to Blackpool.

“You can get 97 people on a bus and it stops every 300 to 500 yards. The train stops every 2.4 miles.

“We want to get people into the city and we advertise it but from Leeds Railway Station to FirstDirect, Elland Road or Headingley Stadium it is a taxi or Uber.

“It is not a case of adding something else – it is giving a fast service. Mass transit moves people quicker.”

TOMORROW: Your YEP looks at the issue of social inequality ahead of the General Election