Extra evening buses 'not high priority' - transport chiefs

Investing in more evening buses on West Yorkshire's roads is not a high priority, the region's transport bosses have said.

Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 5:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 5:42 pm
Public money can be used to subsidise bus services which aren't profitable, but that budget in West Yorkshire is being squeezed.

The absence of reliable public transport to and from big town and city centres late in the day is a bugbear for travellers across the region, with bus companies often reluctant to put on extra services they believe won't make money.

But although the region's politicians have cash they can use to subsidise services, that amount of money is being reduced by central government.

As a result, saving buses that run in rural areas and putting on early morning services before 7am are receiving more investment than other areas.

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Early morning buses and services to rural areas are being prioritised.

Neale Wallace, head of transport at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) which holds the purse strings, said that cash for evening buses was in short supply as a result.

Speaking at a town and parish council liasion group meeting in Wakefield on Wednesday, he said: "The bus operators are commercial companies who are looking to make money at the end of the day.

"Our priority is to make sure that bus services run to communities that would otherwise be cut off completely. That applies more to rural areas.

"The other priority is for early morning buses, which are generally about getting people to work and keeping them commercially active.

"So in the situation we're in with budget constraints, the lowest priority is for evening services because they are generally about leisure time and socialising, rather than a need to travel."

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year said that school and college leavers in Wakefield were being "held back" in the jobs market because of poor public transport.

WYCA's transport committee chair Kim Groves said she was aware that young people were having to turn down shift work, and that was why buses before 7am had to be prioritised.

But a number of parish and town council representatives expressed concern at the situation.

Sarah Mozer, from Crigglestone, said: "When you look at somewhere like London, they've got everything going on in the evenings and all through the day.

"There's lots of people I know who would love to go into Leeds and Wakefield, and you just can't unless you get into your car.

"I know it's a really fine balance, it's just frustrating."

Julia Talbot, parish council clerk for Notton, said that her daughter was likely to go to college in Barnsley rather than Wakefield because of the lack of evening services.

She said: "At the moment the buses from Barnsley to Notton run quite late, but from Wakefield they don't.

"I'm sure there's a lot of other young people in the same situation."