Government urged to work with Combined Authority on next phase of COVID-19 response

The essential role of the public transport network in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed by West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee next week.

The essential role of the public transport network in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed by West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee next week.

Members will hear about the longer-term strategy for the recovery of the public transport network, including changes to how and when people will travel and the operation of services while social distancing measures remain in place.

Following the introduction of key worker timetables, passenger numbers have dropped to around 15% of typical levels on bus services in West Yorkshire and Network Rail has reported a 94% decrease in Leeds Station users. This has had major financial impact on transport authorities and operators who are continuing to run essential services. 

The committee will meet remotely via video conference call, allowing members to safely undertake an important review of the issues affecting the public transport network during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges ahead.

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Lead, said:

“We urgently need the Government to engage directly with ourselves and other transport authorities on its plans for the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and the easing of some of the current restrictions. This includes ensuring we have the funding we need to support services and understand how social distancing is to be implemented.

“We are aware that some discussions are underway with bus and rail operators but, in line with the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal, we will have a central role to play in co-ordinating public transport provision and ensuring passengers have the information and reassurance they need to travel with confidence.”

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said:

“The massive fall in the number of people using public transport has been welcome in the context of the immediate response to COVID-19, but it is putting a huge financial pressure on transport authorities and operators. As we deal with that shortfall in funds, we are also looking at what support the network will need to begin recovery as demand returns.

“Safe public transport, cycling and walking will have a crucial role to play in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but this type of planning cannot be done overnight and we need the Government to work with us and provide the appropriate funding so we can respond effectively.”

Next week’s Transport Committee meeting takes place at 11am on Friday 15 May. The meeting will be available to watch on the Combined Authority’s YouTube channel. The agenda and papers can be found on the westyorks-ca.gov.uk website.