Cost of living win in Mayor's battle for West Yorkshire's bus network

A lifeline has been granted to the region’s bus services - facing the axe from operators - after pressure from West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin forced an extension of support today.

19 August 2022

Ministers have conceded to demands from Northern Mayors to extend the Bus Recovery Grant for six months to help protect passengers during the cost of living crisis.

Local bus operators had said that if the grant ended as planned at the start of October they would withdraw services affecting up to 100 routes, around 11% of West Yorkshire’s bus network and one-sixth of the routes.

Mayor Brabin has been clear with operators that they must not continue with any planned cuts to services following this commitment of an extra six months of funding to protect bus routes until March 2023.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said:

“We’ve been clear that government inaction would have decimated vital bus services and pushed people onto more expensive forms of transport, such as taxis, during the cost of living crisis - a time they can afford it least.

"Now I am cracking on with rolling out cheaper bus fares across the region next month, including a £2 cap on journeys – to help ease the burden on household budgets.”

This shows how mayors can be powerful voices to advocate for their region – and I’m delighted that my colleagues across the North joined my push for action. We can be stronger together than the sum of our parts.

Tracy Brabin Mayor of West Yorkshire

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe Leader of Bradford Council and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority's Transport Committee, said:

“We’ve been telling Government repeatedly for over a year now that withdrawing the Bus Recovery Grant was a huge error, but they’ve literally left it to the very last minute to give this grant extension. Today is the day the bus operators had to make their decision about any bus services changes. If Government had made their decision any later than today the cuts to services would have been very severe indeed. As it is, the grant extension, we think, means that bus operators should really not be contemplating cuts at this time.

“In the longer term we cannot run bus services in such a hand to mouth fashion. Regardless of what model of operation is used, buses are a vital public service. Residents rely on them totally to get to work and to get to health, education and social activities. They are key to any economic recovery. There needs to be a long-term funding commitment from Government to regions for bus service operation.”

Further information

Bus operators have to give almost two months’ notice of service changes, which offers passengers confidence in the network, but it means that changes to services in October would need to be publicised now. Without the Bus Recovery Grant, many areas would have lost services after 7pm, and some would have seen services withdrawn completely, in both urban and rural areas.

The Combined Authority can step in and protect some socially-necessary services, but has limited funds to do so.

A stable bus network offers better work, education and leisure opportunities for many people, not just in rural areas but urban ones as well. The proposed reduction in services would have had a devastating effect on the communities affected, add to the cost-of-living crisis and will compromise the aims of the National Bus Strategy introduced just last year.

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