Labour and Conservative politicians in Bramley and Farsley have today condemned cuts to bus services which they fear will leave some communities isolated.
As revealed by WLD on Sunday, the number 9 Horsforth to White Rose Centre service, which goes through Farsley, Rodley, Pudsey, Farnley and parts of Wortley, will be axed.
A petition against the loss of the number 9 – along with the 87 St James’ Hospital-Holbeck-Armley-Bramley service – has been launched by Pudsey Labour Party and can be signed here.
A journey 9S, to cover an early morning service used by students to Elliott Hudson College, will be introduced by First.
There will also be new timetable on the X11 Leeds – Pudsey – Bradford route with some early and late journeys being cut completely, and an hourly service introduced on the number 14 service between Pudsey and Leeds.
WLD readers have already reacted with anger and concern to the cuts and there are also growing concerns over the decision to change the 508 Halifax to Leeds service, which will be rerouted to operate along the ring road and Stanningley Bypass so miss out Farsley, Rodley and Bramley.
Bramley councillors Kevin Ritchie and Caroline Gruen have written to First West Yorkshire to oppose the cutting of several services from Bramley, Farsley, Stanningley and Rodley. In their letter, they say: “While we understand the costs to First Bus have increased, we believe that these cuts are the wrong decisions for our community.
“In particular, we are worried that the complete removal of the number 9 bus and rerouting of the number 14 and number 508 buses will have serious consequences for local residents and our local economy.
“The number 9 bus serves many young people and commuters who travel to Elliott Hudson College and the White Rose Centre every morning. Removing the number 9 service leaves them with little choice when it comes to public transport, which will have a direct impact on their income and, if more cars are used, our environment. By rerouting the number 508 and number 14 buses, it’s clear that they will bypass our community completely which will reduce access to employment for working people in Bramley, Farsley and Rodley and access to our transport hub at Bramley Shopping Centre.”
Councillor Andrew Carter (Cons, Calverley & Farsley) today said in a statement that for a city where the ambition is to be a place where you don’t need a car, the reality is far different.
“The government has invested millions of pounds in bus services over the last few years to keep them going,” he said. “As a city, we are in serious danger of being dragged down by reduced and axed bus services. Many residents will not be able to get to or from work because morning and evening services have been stopped.
“And what about visitors to Leeds? City Square is a complete shambles for buses and cars, so the council encourages people to use park and ride services. Except two out of three of them won’t operate on Saturdays, none operate on Sundays, and on weekdays, the last bus will be at 6.30pm or 7.30pm in the evening. Not helpful if you want to go out in the city centre shopping, or to the cinema or theatre, or even if you just happen to be working late.
“I would like to know what the Mayor, WYCA and Leader of Council have done to address these concerns. Park and Ride? Park and walk more like!”
Leeds City Council Executive Member for Highways Cllr Helen Hayden and Lead Member for Sustainable Transport Cllr Peter Carlill have expressed dismay at more bus routes being withdrawn in Leeds. Bus operator First have given notice to withdraw a number of services across the city, predominantly impacting communities in the west and south of Leeds.
The news comes following services being previously saved at the last moment last October following dedicated local campaigning – but not before many other routes across the city were axed.
With lower patronage numbers, increasing fuel costs and other financial pressures, operators have been reliant on Government support to keep valuable community services running. But operators are beginning the withdrawal of services – with more likely to come in the future.
Cllr Peter Carlill (Lab, Calverley & Farsley) added: “Buses form a crucial link for many of our communities and it is vital that we don’t see any reductions that will sever those connections. It’s the most frequently used form of public transport, is more sustainable, and often the most affordable for people.
“Leeds is losing vital community connections, with many of the routes pulled being orbital or inter-community. City centre routes are important, but we want to see companies investing more into these local routes between nearby communities such as Horsforth to Pudsey or Morley to East Ardsley.”
“Now more than ever people need to know their bus is going to be able to get them to work so they don’t lose wages or, worse, their position. We’re calling on the Government to provide sustainable long term funding for buses in Leeds, as they receive in London, to allow us meet our ambitions to grow and improve the network.”
Councillor Helen Hayden said: “I can’t believe we are here again. We know that the situation for buses is difficult at this moment no matter who is running them. Its mind boggling the Government hasn’t learnt the lessons from only a few short months ago and got a grip on this situation.
“Whilst this list of routes is shorter than it could have been, for some further routes it is at best a temporary stay. We are seeing a wide raft of service reductions and withdrawals due to the Government’s continued dithering over funding. This is more short-term sticking-plaster solutions at the 11th hour and the Government needs to get its finger out and put in place some long term funding for buses so we can all have some long term certainty, rather than facing this problem again in June.
“This comes on the back of 30 years of decline since deregulation of the bus sector put the power to choose routes into the hands of the operators. We may have made different choices to address this funding shortfall, helping protect those communities most in need, but private operators will always choose to focus on financially profitable routes.
“This is just one of the reasons we continue to support the Mayor’s pledge to bring buses back into public ownership.”
First West Yorkshire said earlier this week that passenger numbers remain lower than pre-pandemic levels and although many services are showing good growth, a very small number haven’t shown signs of attracting sufficient users to cover their costs.
Kayleigh Ingham, commercial director of First West Yorkshire, said: “We have worked closely with the Combined Authority to maintain connectivity where possible. Unfortunately some of these journeys are no longer viable given low levels of utilisation and increased operating costs, whilst WYCA has chosen to revise or withdraw some of these expired contracts for the same reasons.
“We appreciate that some amendments will be disappointing for customers affected. First West Yorkshire has carefully reviewed these, together with WYCA, in order to limit changes.
“This action is necessary now to ensure we build a sustainable network into the future and that we balance customer demand with available resources, where there is a clear need for additional capacity.
“It would not be prudent for any organisation, private or public, to continue to operate the same services knowing that the demand across the bus network has changed.”