Government needs to step in to keep West Yorkshire buses running, claim regional transport chiefs

The number of bus services in West Yorkshire is set to increase back to pre-Covid levels from next month, but more government help is needed to keep the services viable, a regional transport authority has claimed.

Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 8:14 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 8:20 am

It also warned the capacity of buses would still be limited to only 50 percent to aid social distancing, as the pandemic refuses to shift in West Yorkshire.

Regional decision-makers at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) transport committee will meet next week to discuss the role of public transport in the recovery from the pandemic.

Members are expected to hear about how West Yorkshire’s transport network could recover from the virus, including how the pandemic has caused a shift in people’s transport and working patterns.

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The number of bus services in West Yorkshire is set to increase back to pre-Covid levels from next month

A statement from WYCA added: “From the start of September, bus services will increase to around 100 percent of normal services. However, the capacity of buses continues to be limited to around 50 percent due to social distancing.

“Throughout summer, passenger numbers have continued to rise to 45 percent of normal levels, and WYCA is preparing for further increases in passenger numbers when schools and colleges reopen in September.”

But it added public transport use in the region remained well below pre-pandemic levels, and that its members had called for “urgent government intervention” to ensure services remain viable.

WYCA’s statement said: “Members will hear how the reduced demand and loss of revenue is continuing to have significant impact on the financial stability of local bus services, with WYCA required by government to keep funding bus operators as if all services were running and patronage was at pre-lockdown levels.

“Without a long-term funding solution from government, a sustained loss of revenue from bus fares may result in some bus services becoming unsustainable.”

Coun Kim Groves, chairwoman of WYCA’s transport committee, said: “We continue to seek a long-term funding solution from Government to ensure we can maximise capacity on the network while maintaining social distancing.

“Buses link households to jobs, education and leisure so if we cannot deliver these bus services the impact on society is huge. Bus funding and governance models need a radical overhaul that delivers value for money, reliability and affordability.”

Next week’s Transport Committee meeting takes place at 11am on Friday, September 4. The meeting will be available to watch on the Combined Authority’s YouTube channel.