More misery for commuters in Wakefield, Ossett and the Five Towns as Arriva announces more cuts to bus services

Arriva is set to cut even more buses across the Wakefield district, to the despair of passengers.

By David Spereall
Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:18 am
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:20 am

Four local services serving the district are to be axed entirely, while several others will have their routes changed or their frequency slashed.

The 117, which runs between Leeds and Wakefield, via Ossett and the White Rose Shopping Centre, and the 184, which runs between Castleford and Pontefract via Airedale, are both set to be pulled at the end of February.

The 187 Wakefield to Pontefract service and the 119 between Batley and Wakefield are also in line for the chop.

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Wakefield Bus Station

Although new services will be introduced and timetables amended in a bid to partially compensate for the cuts, the news follows sweeping changes Arriva made to the local network before Christmas.

On that occasion the operator blamed a driver shortage, with staff leaving the bus trade en masse for better-paid HGV jobs.

But now the company says the latest changes have been made in response to falling "passenger demand".

Local councillors have reacted angrily to the news, which has landed the same week as rail passengers around the Five Towns were told by Northern that they'd have to put up with reduced train services for the foreseeable future.

Pontefract South councillor David Jones called on Arriva to "rethink" the changes.

Pontefract South Labour councillor David Jones said he wanted a "rethink" from Arriva.

Besides the loss of the 187, numerous buses serving the Five Towns will also have their frequency reduced, which Arriva says will "improve punctuality".

But Coun Jones said: "It appears it’s very much the north-eastern side of the district that yet again has been penalised by public transport providers.

"This is pushing people into cars at a time when we want to see fewer cars on the road for the sake of the environment.

Services across the Wakefield district will be affected.

"Of equal concern to us is ensuring home-to-school transport by way of buses is protected."

In Ossett, the loss of the 117 means people there will have to travel to nearby Shaw Cross to get a bus directly to Leeds.

Local Conservative councillor Tony Homewood said: "We'll be campaigning to keep the service, because it’s not right.

"A lot of people round here haven’t got cars and this is going to make getting to Leeds all the more difficult for them. People rely on the buses.

Councillor Matthew Morley called on Arriva to hold off on implementing the changes, but the operator has said they will come into force at the end of February.

"I think we will have a train station in Ossett eventually, but at the moment we haven’t got one and it’s not easy for people to get around."

Matthew Morley, Wakefield Council's Cabinet member for transport, described the latest developments as "beyond disappointing" and called for Arriva to hold off on implementing them so passengers can be consulted.

Councillor Morley said: "Whilst I recognise that Arriva, like nearly every other business and services in the public sector, are dealing with the effect of Covid, the answer cannot simply be to cut off community transport links that are a lifeline to so many."

“We will continue to lobby on behalf of residents, as well as working with the (West Yorkshire) Combined Authority to find some support for Arriva.

"However, I am urging Arriva to postpone the changes, as it is essential to ensure that in all discussions the voices of residents are heard.”

Full details of all the proposed changes, which are due to be imposed over the last weekend in February, can be found here.

In a statement, Arriva said: "Arriva is fully committed to providing the best possible bus services to communities across the region.

"The decision to undertake limited changes to services in West Yorkshire is in direct response to reduced passenger demand.

"Throughout the pandemic we have operated close to 100 per cent of our pre-Covid network in West Yorkshire and we now need to make some focused adjustments to our services as travel patterns have changed, including with more home working.

"We have consulted with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority over these changes and made adjustments to minimise the impact on local people, we have also very carefully considered requests to postpone their implementation.

"However, if we were to do so we would unfortunately be forced to continue making reactive and unplanned cuts to services as a result of national driver shortages, leading to continued frustration and uncertainty for customers."

Local Democracy Reporting Service