East Leeds Flexibus service that became 'part of the community' cancelled after just 18 months

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The east Leeds Flexibus, which offered passengers a taxi-style service, is being withdrawn just 18 months into a three-year trial scheme.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), which commissioned the pilot service in 2021, said the bus had been used less than predicted, despite an average of more than 240 passengers a week making journeys on it.

The Flexibus offered door-to-door £2 trips to locations across east Leeds from people’s homes, with passengers using an online system to book their journeys up to an hour advance.

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But a WYCA transport committee on Friday heard the service was costing the public purse £16 per journey to run. Mechanical problems with the electric vehicles have also occurred, with the batteries running flat sooner than expected.

A Flexibus bus which is part of the scheme that is now being scrapped.A Flexibus bus which is part of the scheme that is now being scrapped.
A Flexibus bus which is part of the scheme that is now being scrapped.

WYCA has now exercised a break clause to terminate the project at the end of next month. Leeds councillor Helen Hayden, who represents the Temple Newsam ward, told the meeting she was “gutted” the service was ending.

“It’s my part of the world and I know a lot of people who loved the service and have used it,” she said.

“I know people who were on first-name terms with the drivers, and they and the people who worked on it became a part of the community.”

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Competition from traditional bus services in east Leeds has been cited as one of the reasons why the Flexibus did not catch on as expected. However, almost a quarter of all journeys took passengers to St James’ Hospital, with staff and patients having been regular users.

WYCA said it is in talks with hospital bosses to see if alternative arrangements can now be made for those affected. Speaking after the meeting, a Combined Authority spokesperson said: “We have supported the Flexibus trial for nearly two years but regrettably, due to rising costs and low passenger numbers, difficult decisions must be taken.

“At a time where public funds are already stretched, and after careful consideration was given to alternative public transport links available in east Leeds where the service runs, a decision has been taken to end the Flexibus trial at the end of August. “We will be working closely with our partners to minimise the impact of this on those who currently use the service.”