Public transport's affordability & availability has a massive impact linking people with jobs and training says Transport Chair Cllr Kim Groves
7 August 2018
Responding to a report published today by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, which says that Jobseekers in the North are being prevented from taking up job opportunities due to public transport being too expensive and unreliable Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: "The problems faced by residents of low-income neighbourhoods described in this report illustrate why the Combined Authority has placed inclusive growth at the heart of its transport policies. The affordability and availability of public transport has a massive impact in linking people with job and training opportunities.
"We spend over £17 million each year to ensure that essential journeys the bus companies consider non-profitable are provided. However, with local government under continued funding pressure, we will need to ensure this money is targeted at those who need it most. We need more flexible transport services that reflect the changing nature and location of employment."
Launching the Report, Ed Ferrari, Director of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, which carried out he research with the University of Sheffield said: "Buses are the backbone of local public transport in Britain and the key to employment and training opportunities for many. But problems with high fares, poor coordination between different providers and services, and lack of reliability seriously hamper the ability of low-income groups to commute to more distant jobs."
Cllr Groves said: "Affordability of transport is understandably a key area of concern for people. Government research shows that since 2005, bus fares in Metropolitan areas such as West Yorkshire has grown by 28% above inflation. The research shows that people in low-income neighbourhoods are needing to travel further to find work. It is important that these journeys are affordable and, in particular, that people should not be paying more simply because they have to use more than one bus company's services.
"We will continue to push bus companies, which we hope share our ambitions regarding inclusive growth, to provide affordable fares and flexible ways of paying for them and our multi-operator MCard smartcard system provides us with opportunities to do this."
Reducing the cost
She continued: "The Combined Authority spends £10 million each year reducing the cost of bus travel for younger people. One of the early steps the Combined Authority took back in 2015 was to extend the half-fare for bus & train travel up until their 19th birthday to help young people access employment and apprenticeships.
"And through our West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and the Leeds City Region Growth Deal, a £1 billion package of Government investment through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), we are set to invest £195 million this year on transport and economic schemes designed to support inclusive economic growth, new jobs, better access to training and skills.
"As this new report makes clear, there is no simple solution, but transport investment is vital to resolving these failings and a rebalancing of the funding for our region is urgently required."
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