BUSES in West Yorkshire will be greener, run later in the night and never charge more than £ 5.50 to anyone.
That’s according to the mayor of the region, who said this week that his new bus improvement plan will transform services to make buses a “first choice” for everyone.
The plans, hailed by Mayor Tracy Brabin as ‘bold’ and ‘ambitious’, will allow transport chiefs to bid against other regional authorities for millions of pounds of extra spending money for central government bus services .
But regional leaders have also spoken out against the “beauty pageant” nature of the bidding process, adding that the process of applying for government funds takes time and resources.
The comments were made at a plenary meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which deals with transport and major infrastructure projects in the region.
Mayor Brabin said: “The bus should be the first choice, not the choice because you don’t have a car. Our plan is bold and ambitious, yet simple and passenger-focused.
“It’s about connecting people to work, education and leisure opportunities. It needs to be inclusive, safe for everyone, and we need to reimagine the way we design the bus system so that it serves more than just the traditional commuter.
Three-quarters of Bradford’s bus fleet now meeting greener targets
“Our bus network needs to connect different communities – we also need to extend the hours of the day that buses serve those communities, with more frequency and regularity. ”
She added that 90 percent of transport emissions come from cars and vans, and decarbonizing buses should be a priority.
The bus service improvement plan, released last week, includes a commitment to pay customers’ taxi fares if the last bus service of the day is canceled, and the maximum cost of a day’s travel in bus is capped at £ 5.50.
It is also committed to creating greener bus fleets and improving the region’s roads to give buses better priority.
Commenting on the plans, Bradford councilor Rebecca Poulsen (Con) said she wanted more to be done to ensure rural and school bus services are up to par in the future, and that this would encourage more people to use public transport.
She said: “It’s the more difficult and complex routes that are going to be difficult – it’s difficult when the buses end at 7pm and run once every two hours when people want to live their lives.
“I am pleading that we really work harder for rural communities. ”
Councilor Poulsen added: “It seems to me that we are putting our most vulnerable people – our young children – on the worst buses.
“If you’ve ever been on a school bus, it’s the older buses that can barely go up the hills half the time, with shows coming out of it – I really think we need to make sure we provide decent school buses for young people. ”
Bradford Council chief Susan Hinchcliffe (Lab) said many urban areas were also seeing inefficient and infrequent services.
She added: “There is an opportunity here, but it comes at a time when some operators are cutting back on services – I don’t want this to just replace the services initially paid for by the private sector.
“The money we spend, I would like to see sustainable over the long term. ”
More early morning and evening services are included in the plans, while upgrades to bus stations in Halifax, Leeds, Huddersfield and Dewsbury are also included.
A new passenger charter will commit that if the last bus service of the day on a route is late or canceled, the taxi fare will be refunded.
A “tap and go” system will be introduced next year, which means passengers are charged the best price for their trip and never more than this daily cap.
Kirklees council chief Shabir Pandor (Lab) said many different communities face inequalities in access to transport.
He said: “I wish I had buses everywhere. You have to see the big picture. It’s not as easy as putting a bus here and a bus there – it’s about using your resources efficiently.
“It’s something we need to do in terms of upgrading – it’s not about infrastructure, it’s about people. ”
The plan will allow WYCA to bid for a share of a £ 3bn funding from the Department for Transport. They should know if their offer is accepted in early 2022.
Leeds City Council chief James Lewis (Lab) said: “I welcome the ambition of this plan – I have been very clear on what we expect from our public transport, rather than what we are getting. given.
“But if leveling up wasn’t an empty slogan, we wouldn’t have to bid for it, we would be given it with a bow.
“I regret that we have to go through rounds of tenders for basic public transport that people in the South appreciate.”
Mayor Brabin replied, “The nature of the beauty pageant is very frustrating, time consuming and takes up enormous resources. So hopefully we will do well with this offer.