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West Yorkshire bus campaign calls for public ownership amid service delays, rising costs and safety concerns

BY Phoebe Morton

Better Buses for West Yorkshire says that bus delays are a result of privatisation of the service. PHOTO: Phoebe Morton

A passenger-led campaign in Leeds is calling for more to be done to transfer control of the bus service to the public. 

It follows ‘Free Bus Sunday’, which took place in West Yorkshire on October 31 to celebrate the start of climate conference COP26.

‘Free Bus Sunday’ was agreed between West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and the private bus companies, such as First Bus and Arriva, that run the West Yorkshire bus services. 

In light of South Yorkshire Mayor declining to offer free buses during COP26, a campaigner at Better Buses for West Yorkshire, Matthew Topham, said: “We were very pleased we got something from the Mayor.

“However, there is no indication that the Mayor will want to be doing this going forward – she can’t do it while the private companies are running the services.” 

Despite her initial pledge to move towards putting buses back into public control within the first 100 days, Topham says West Yorkshire has “put the brakes on at the same time”. 

The campaigners say that privatisation of bus services provides a less efficient and reliable service at the cost of the passenger. 

Matthew Topham added that the money being made by the bus service “is not staying in West Yorkshire helping our communities, it is just bleeding out” in dividends to private companies. 

“The money is just bleeding out”

Matthew topham, better buses for west yorkshire

Earlier this year, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham announced that Manchester’s bus services were being brought back under local authority control. 

A report from July 2021 by Phillip Alston, a former UN Special Rapporteur, stated that the deregulation and privatisation of bus services in the UK has “left residents with an expensive, unreliable, fragmented, and dysfunctional bus system”. 

West Yorkshire bus services have come under fire in recent years. 

A TUC analysis revealed that public funding for bus services in the West Yorkshire region fell by 36% between 2010 and 2018.

West Yorkshire Bus Alliance’s own data reveals compared to data from January to March in 2019, in 2020 1.6% more buses failed to leave their first stop on time. 

This can be reflected by users on Twitter. 

Better Buses for West Yorkshire also said many users had expressed safety concerns as a consequence of the unreliability of Leeds bus services, particularly at night time. 

When contacted for comment by the Yorkshire Voice, a spokesperson for First Leeds said: “The safety of customers is our top priority at all times of the day. Anyone with concerns about the behaviour of another passenger while travelling on the bus can speak to the driver, who is in direct contact with the depot and appropriate action can be taken.

“We also have on-board CCTV cameras and footage from these will be shared with the police as necessary to assist any investigation.”

PHOTO: Phoebe Morton

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