I was pleased to see the release of the Bus Review Report commissioned by Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region, and chaired by Clive Betts MP. I was especially glad that the report recommends that our regional authority seriously considers introducing a franchise model for our local bus services.
Under a franchising model, bus services are brought under public control and are run by an accountable public body – in our case, this would be the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority led by Mayor Dan Jarvis. Franchising allows for a much more integrated public transport system with services that are run to meet people’s needs, rather than solely for profit. In London, a bus franchising system has been working for around thirty years.
I’m also glad that the report favours a more flexible, but also simpler, fare system for our region and suggests extending concessionary fares for older people, disabled people and apprentices. It also makes the very important point that more should, and can, be done to support disabled people who are being let down by the lack of accessibility within the existing public transport system.
The climate crisis means that we need to make it as cheap, convenient, and simple as possible for people to use public transport. But, clearly, the current privatised bus system is not working for people in Sheffield.
The Bus Review Report makes the point that “it is clear that the franchising option was most desired in Sheffield where confidence in the private operators is at rock bottom”. Given the number of complaints I have received from local people about bus services, I certainly agree with this assessment!
Private bus companies have consistently raised fares, while cutting routes and providing an unreliable service. That’s why, since becoming an MP in 2015, I’ve consistently campaigned for better local bus services and, last August, I wrote to Dan Jarvis to ask that he use his powers as Mayor to introduce London-style bus franchising to our area.
The franchising system has real benefits and I’m pleased that we are taking steps towards introducing it locally, but it will cost money to establish and run. I’ll be pressing the government to provide our regional authority with the money it needs to implement franchising, so that we can all rely on dependable and affordable bus services that get us where we need go.