Fears over more cuts to bus services in West Yorkshire from April
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Operators are reportedly planning to axe at least seven services and alter another 35, so they run less frequently or on a shorter route from April 2.
The changes will come into effect after a scheme, which saw the Government hand operators across the country around £2bn to protect services during the pandemic, ends.
Operators of services in Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale and other parts of West Yorkshire claim they have to make the cuts, because they have been struggling with a drop in passenger demand during the pandemic, rising fuel costs, inflation and staff shortages.
However, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has been urging the companies to “hold their nerve” and wait until a £70m investment brings long-awaited improvements to the network and boosts passenger numbers.
The Government has provided the funding to support West Yorkshire’s bus service improvement plan and Ms Brabin decided last year that more than half (£37m) should be spent on subsidising fares for passengers.
She introduced the Mayors Fares in September, to ensure passengers pay no more than £2 for a single ticket and £4.50 for a day pass.
The latest figures show customers have made 7.2m journeys using the Mayor’s Fares – almost 500,000 a week – and they have saved £3.6m overall so far.
There has also been an increase in passenger numbers since the discounted fares were introduced, as demand rose from 81 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in May 2022, to 87 per cent in December.
Ms Brabin, who has long-term plans for public ownership of bus services, has said the rest of the £70m Government funding will be spent on upgrading the network, to make services more frequent and more reliable.
In January passengers travelling on a bus route between Leeds and Wakefield slammed the service as “like a horse and cart” since a timetable change in October last year.
Customers took to social media to complain of frequent cancellations and ‘ghost buses’ on the Arriva 110 service, which the bus company said had been hit by ongoing roadworks and driver shortages.