Bus companies have been criticised for making huge pay-outs to shareholders at a time when job seekers are being “locked out” of employment opportunities by “unreliable and unaffordable” public transport.
In addition, First Bus West Yorkshire raised the cost of most single, day and week ticket prices last month, and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has now vowed to raise their concerns about bus services to the Government.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) presented a study to the authority’s transport committee on Friday in which they claim public transport holds back low-income families from achieving a better standard of living.
Councillor Kim Groves, who chairs the committee, said: “It is so disappointing that we have just had one of our operators in West Yorkshire increase their prices at a time when people are struggling. There needs to be a radical change, but what’s more disappointing is that Arriva First Group, National Express and Stagecoach recently gave their shareholders £1.5bn back so I think we need to raise these issues.”
She added: “Growth is happening in West Yorkshire, the jobs are there for people and people need reliable, affordable transport, so we will write to the DfT (Department for Transport) in conjunction with your (the JRF) report.”
Other members of the committee expressed their own concerns about the reliability and affordability of public transport being a barrier to employment.
Wakefield Council leader, Coun Peter Box, said: “For a lot of people, the quality of their life depends on good transport links and I think we need to look at what we can do.”
He said that in the south east of his district a lot of people are unable to get to where jobs have been created and so maybe politicians could look at how some jobs could be moved out of city centres.
Temple Newsam councillor Michael Lyons said the problem was also acute in his ward of Leeds.
He said: “The middle of Seacroft, there are hundreds of people who want jobs. If you go across to Cross Green or Thorpe Park we have got lots of jobs that need filling. The difficulty is getting people from the middle of Seacroft across to Cross Green where the work is.”
Kirklees councillor Martyn Bolt said local authorities had invested heavily in cycle lanes and so if the combined authority wants to overcome transport barriers it should look beyond just bus service efficiencies.
“Let’s look in the round at what this authority wants to do and not just look at buses,” he said.
Coun Groves, who represents people in the Middleton Park area of Leeds, responded: “Rest assured that we are taking cycling very seriously on this board and that it shouldn’t be the Cinderella of transport, but what I would say, it is really clear wherever you go in the country, there needs to be a radical review of the bus services.
“It’s not acceptable when people can’t get to work but buses are running round cities and towns full of fresh air and no people on them. Bus services need to work more smartly.”
The combined authority is currently pursuing a formal alliance with bus companies in order to increase bus use and improve passenger satisfaction.