CITY region mayor Dan Jarvis has unveiled plans for a new body to overhaul South Yorkshire’s bus services, saying they needed a “transformation” to encourage more travellers to use them.
Mr Jarvis, who last week attacked bus companies for hiking fares, was backed by the Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) in his proposal to form an “Enhanced partnership” with bus operators, which will pave the way for bids for government funding for improvements.
Under this model, the MCA, councils and operators agree shared aims and to work closely together to deliver a better transport system and, once agreed, the partnership model opens up the prospect of financial support from the Government.
The MCA has also put forward a bid to the Levelling Up Fund worth £50 million, which contains several proposals to improve bus services.
“Our bus services are critical to the future of South Yorkshire, but we need a transformation if they are going to fulfil their potential,” said Mr Jarvis.
“If we build a good system, people will use it.
“This is an interim arrangement, so we can secure the funds needed, while we look at the full range of governance models, including franchising.
“My bottom line is that I will back whatever structure can best deliver the fundamental change we so badly need, to build a reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly bus service for all of South Yorkshire.”
Mr Jarvis said franchising was a long-term option for buses but improvements were needed now.
He added: “I won’t settle for anything other than a transformation of our buses.”
An enhanced partnership can involve specifying timetables and multi-operator ticketing, and allows the local transport authority to take over the role of registering bus services from the Traffic Commissioners, while franchising would allow the LTA greater control over ticketing and services.
If approved, the £50 million being bid for would cover replacement of bus and tram shelters, more live information displays and replacing a fleet of community buses with electric vehicles.
It would also expand contactless payments across South Yorkshire public transport, introduce payment machines so people can buy before they travel and could involve road improvements in some traffic hotspots.
“We need the government to match our ambitions, so we can get on and build the world class bus service South Yorkshire needs,” said Mr Jarvis, who highlighted earlier this year how bus funding from government was £76 per her in London and £5 in Sheffield.
Mr Jarvis has allocated £6 million to extending cheaper travel for the under-21s.
Anyone aged 21 and under can now take any bus or tram journey for 80p.
The passes will come into use on June 21.