Leeds bus operators Arriva and Transdev blame ‘ridiculous’ roadworks for lateness
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Arriva said roadworks on Whitehall Road in the city centre meant it was considering rerouting some of its buses, while Transdev claimed congestion was “killing” its network.
The council’s executive member with responsibility for transport, Helen Hayden, said operators’ remarks were “disheartening” and added that buses had been given priority in areas across the city centre.
Council representatives also stressed the authority is not responsible for all roadworks that take place in Leeds. Some are carried out by utility companies and developers, though the council is responsible for much of the major redevelopment work in the city centre over the last year.
But Dwayne Wells, Arriva’s head of commercial, told the meeting: “We do have some challenges. The biggest one is punctuality, particularly with the recent infrastructure work in the city centre – Whitehall Road in particular.
“We have taken it up on ourselves to add time into the timetable to account for this congestion. Up to 30 minutes were added onto some journeys and and it still isn’t enough unfortunately. So we’re giving consideration to rerouting our services in the city.”
Paul Turner, commercial director at Transdev, said that traffic congestion had been “killing us” a year ago and that the situation hadn’t improved.
“Probably the number one bit of feedback we have from customers is the reliability and predictability of bus services,” he said. “It’s a massive issue.”
Trade union representatives added their voice to the criticism.
Andrew Dyer, from Unite, said that while a “decent pay rise” for bus drivers had improved staffing numbers, congestion and the knock-on effect on timetable changes were affecting retention.
“The traffic situation in Leeds is ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t know who came up with the idea, but it’s decimated the punctuality for the buses.”
Gary Bartlett, the council’s chief officer for highways, acknowledged the previous “12 to 18 months” had been “particularly difficult” for drivers and public transport to get around the city.
But he insisted congestion in Leeds was not as bad as in other major cities and that some of the major works would soon be “coming to an end”.
Councillor Hayden added: “As somebody who is responsible for the transport decisions in this city, our focus has been on bus priority. We get heavily criticised for it.
“We are, especially in the city centre, reframing the roads give priority to buses, so it’s a bit disheartening to be criticised for doing that by bus operators.”
“Maybe criticism is too harsh a word. But we are doing that because we want people to use public transport.”