£2 bus fare cap extended – but mayor warns new funding is “at best a sticking plaster”

EXTENDING the £2 bus fare cap has been welcomed — but with a warning that it will not fix South Yorkshire’s “broken” network.

The government announced that the subsidised tickets will continue for an extra four months to the end of June across England, excluding London.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the extension ensured bus travel remained “accessible and affordable” for everyone.

He added: “Buses connect our communities and play a vital role in growing the economy; they transport people to work, take our kids to school and make sure patients can get to doctors’ appointments.

“That’s why we’re determined to protect local routes and encourage more people onto the bus, ensuring people can get around easily and in an affordable way.”

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “The announcement will not stop further cuts to our broken bus network.

“We need a partner in government who will match our ambition for South Yorkshire’s public transport network, rather than inflicting further damage on our communities.

“Here in our region we lost 15 per cent of our network in the last year, and this announcement threatens at least another 10 per cent of our buses; routes that are a lifeline for thousands of people.

“We are urgently working through the legal process that will allow us to decide if we can radically change how buses are run in South Yorkshire, through a move to franchising.

“Repeated, short-term extensions to bus funding are at best a sticking plaster, preventing our bus system from bleeding out.”

Funding for the cap is from a £500 million government pot, while transport secretary Mark Harper announced a further £300 to 2025 to “protect vital routes and improve services” that people rely on for work, education, medical appointments and shopping.

Fares from November will be capped at £2.50 for a year, after which another national review of bus services will take place.

Rotherham Council leader Cllr Chris Read said: “Sadly, across the country over the last year 1,000 bus services were axed while the Conservative government failed to provide sustained funding and passenger numbers have recovered slowly in the wake of the pandemic.

“The devil as always will be in the detail. It is nearly 25 per cent less money than the Confederation of Passenger Transport recently said was necessary to maintain services at current levels, and the distribution across the country will also make the difference in terms of what we can expect to see locally.”