Public transport at the forefront of COVID-19 recovery plans for West Yorkshire

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.

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.  

At the virtual meeting, being held on Friday 4 September, members will hear about the longer term strategy for the recovery of West Yorkshire’s transport network, including how the pandemic has caused a shift in people’s transport and working patterns.  

From the start of September, bus services will increase to around 100% of normal services. However, the capacity of buses continues to be limited to around 50% due to social distancing. Throughout summer, passenger numbers have continued to rise to 45% of normal levels. The Combined Authority is preparing for further increases in passenger numbers when schools and colleges reopen in September. However, public transport use remains well below pre-pandemic levels, with members previously calling for urgent Government intervention to ensure that services which provide a vital link to employment and key local amenities remain viable. 

Members will hear how the reduced demand and loss of revenue is continuing to have significant impact on the financial stability of local bus services, with the Combined Authority required by Government to keep funding bus operators as if all services were running and patronage was at pre-lockdown levels. Without a long-term funding solution from Government, a sustained loss of revenue from bus fares may result in some bus services becoming unsustainable.  

Buses remain an essential part of the West Yorkshire transport system; over 70% of public transport journeys are made by bus, in normal times almost 3 million bus journeys are made each week, connecting communities to work, education and services.     

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

“A strong public transport network is critical to West Yorkshire’s economic recovery and our long-term prosperity. Getting passengers safely and successfully back on public transport over the coming weeks and months is going to be crucial – particularly for those who rely on public transport to get to work, education, healthcare or do the weekly shop and for whom buses especially are a lifeline.  

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen people walking or cycling more, with big improvements in air quality and congestion. As the economy recovers, we want to build on this and avoid a return to cars, with the consequent negative impacts for our environment, public health and the economy. To do this we need to regain people’s confidence in the public transport system and show them that it is safe to use. 

"We continue to seek a long-term funding solution from Government to ensure we can maximise capacity on the network while maintaining social distancing. Buses link households to jobs, education and leisure so if we cannot deliver these bus services the impact on society is huge. Bus funding and governance models need a radical overhaul that delivers value for money, reliability and affordability.” 

Next week’s Transport Committee meeting takes place at 11am on Friday 4 September. The meeting will be available to watch on the Combined Authority’s YouTube channel. The agenda and papers can be found here.