‘Bring Leeds bus services back under public control’ says council leader

13 November 2019

The leader of Leeds City Council has reiterated calls for bus services to be brought back under public control, following a heated debate in the council chamber this afternoon, writes Local Demcoracy Reporter Richard Beecham.

It followed comments from Leeds Conservatives group leader Coun Andrew Carter (Con, Calverley & Farsley), who raised questions about taxpayer investment into bus services following West Yorkshire’s biggest two bus companies being put up for sale.

judith blake
Cllr Judith Blake

But Coun Judith Blake (Lab) said that bus services in Leeds were estimated to have lost one million passengers since deregulation in the mid-1980s, and that she wanted bus companies to be brought back into public ownership.

The discussion followed a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) last month, during which it was agreed to look into the possibility of “participating” in the sale of First Bus. Both Arriva and First Bus, West Yorkshire’s two largest bus operators, were put up for sale by their respective parent companies earlier this year.

Andrew Carter Calverley and Farsley
Cllr Andrew Carter

During a members’ questions session of a full Leeds City Council meeting, Coun Carter asked for Coun Blake to produce any contract between Leeds City Council and Arriva or First Bus which set out commitments in return for public investment in bus services.

Coun Blake said terms were agreed with First, similar to agreements in place with Arriva and Transdev, and each agreement had been submitted to the Department for Transport in 2016. Coun Carter responded by suggesting a binding contract should have been signed with Arriva and First.

Coun Blake responded:

“These agreements were made with bus companies to improve bus transport for any bus companies in the city of Leeds.

“As we know, First is up for sale and WYCA leaders working on the board have agreed to pursue the possibility of buying that company – I think that is a very positive step forward and something that needs to be welcomed.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with the takeover but we will work with whoever the new owners are and make sure that they do fully invest in future bus transport.

“The scandal of the bus patronage since bus systems were privatised can’t be allowed to continue. Since 1986, we estimate the number of people using buses in cities across the UK has halved. With that, we believe that is one million less in West Yorkshire.

“We want to make sure, as soon as we possibly can, that we get the bus companies back into public ownership, re-regulated and providing the service that the travelling public need and demand.”

Support us

Article tags

Comment on this article

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stephen Clayforth says:

I must admit that I do not often agree with Cllr Judith Blake but in this instance I wholeheartedly agree with her. The bus service in Leeds since privatisation has deteriorated alarmingly and has come to the state where people prefer to drive into Leeds City Centre rather than rely on a bus service that is regularly late or missing and having to pay through the nose when the bus does turn up. Harking back to the days of the old Leeds City Transport the bus service was run for the benefit of the citizens of Leeds and not the bank accounts of anonymous shareholders and because of that it was far and away the best service in the country.

Perhaps by bringing the bus service back into public ownership, preferably just Leeds City Council, we can return to those days. Days when LCT not only was only one of FIVE Corporation undertakings that ran at a profit but was the ONLY one that could afford to buy new buses out of revenue instead of having to borrow the money. Also the buses might actually start running a service that is both wanted and used by the public of Leeds over routes that actually serve the citizens and not the bus companies push for increased profits.

I hope Cllr Blake is successful in her endeavors to bring First Bus back into the ownership of the citizens of Leeds.