Reducing ‘reckless’ government spending on public transport could ‘take South Yorkshire bus services off a cliff’

In a statement from Mayor Dan Jarvis, co-signed by the four county council leaders, they say ministers have added ‘fuel to the fire by reneging on a promise’ to invest £3billion in the improving services, diverting much of it to pay for emergency Covid support.

They said failure to provide support would see ‘South Yorkshire bus services fall’ within weeks.

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Political leaders in South Yorkshire have come out and criticized the government for what they say is the ‘failure to extend financial support’ to public transport in the region.

The executives said the decision will “challenge the value” of the newly negotiated enhanced partnership and “strengthen the case” for considering franchising as an alternative.

The Ministry of Transport and the Treasury have been contacted for comment.

Leaders are also calling on the central government to ‘fully fund’ the proposals for the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’s (SYMCA) bus service improvement plan.

They say operators ‘must look beyond their most immediate results’ and help SYMCA ‘deliver a fare cap, free travel for under-18s and millions of pounds of investment in new green buses and route improvements.

The government statement was signed by South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis, Doncaster Council Mayor Ros Jones, Sheffield Council Leader Terry Fox, Barnsley Council Leader Sir Steve Houghton and the Leader of Rotherham Council, Chris Read.

They said: ‘We are deeply concerned that the Government’s failure to extend financial support to local public transport will very soon have devastating consequences for South Yorkshire’s bus system, condemning passengers to fare increases and service reductions.

“It directly undermines the transformational change the government and operators say they want – crippling efforts to get people back on buses and instead recklessly lock down the damage caused by Covid. Rather than leveling places like South Yorkshire, they let us down.

“The government has set as the ‘central objective’ of its national bus strategy ‘to bring overall ridership back to pre-Covid levels and then to exceed it.’ In practice, they are recklessly pulling the rug out from under the recovery, and with it the contribution buses could make to sustaining our economies, reducing carbon emissions and promoting inclusion.

A DfT spokesman said: ‘These claims are patently untrue, given that this Government will have invested over £3bn in bus services by 2025, including £570m earmarked specifically for the South Yorkshire to transform local networks.

“It’s up to local authorities to decide how they spend this money, and we’re supporting them as we rebuild after the pandemic.”

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