Public urged to ‘get onboard’ bus franchising plans


By Christopher Young, local democracy reporter

BUS passengers, unions, and councillors launched a campaign to get more than 2,000 West Yorkshire residents to vote for buses to come into public control.

There is currently a public consultation on the future of bus services in the region – a consultation that could see West Yorkshire Combined Authority adopt a “franchising” model that would give them control over bus services.

On Friday, activists in favour of the plans parked a double-decker bus opposite Bradford City Hall – home to the offices of West Yorkshire Transport Chair Susan Hinchcliffe – to call on the public to “Get On Board” with the plans.

The launch marks the urgency of the campaign as there are just 50 days left to vote in the consultation.

Public control – the system used in London – is also sometimes called re-regulation or franchising.

Currently, bus companies have powers over routes, fares, and standards but re-regulation means they operate under contract to the Mayor, who sets the terms of service.

Campaigners at the Better Buses for West Yorkshire group, which organised the event, held up placards at the event to highlight the benefits of taking control away from the private operators.

An opposing campaign was recently set up by bus companies, who argue they will be able to improve services in the coming years without the need for franchising, which they aregue will cost the taxpayer.

Matthew Topham, a campaigner at Better Buses for West Yorkshire, said: “For the next 50 days, people in West Yorkshire have the biggest opportunity in four decades to fix our broken bus network.

“Nowhere else in Europe has handed so much control over local buses to private companies. The Mayor’s plans would start to fix that, putting power back in your pocket — but only if enough people vote in favour.”

Peter Spillane, from Unite Community in Bradford, said: “Our members have spent months speaking to people in the city and surrounding towns about local buses.

“The answers are often the same. We can’t rely on them to get to work. We can’t be certain we’re getting value for money. The routes we relied on to get to the school or hospital have been cut.

“Public control will give the Mayor new powers to fine bad operators and improve services. It’s no wonder so many are backing the plans. But there’s just 50 days to go. Make sure you have your say.”

To take part in the consultation visit this website.

Earlier this week, bus passengers and councillors came together to highlight Leeds Council’s support for plans to bring West Yorkshire’s buses into public control.

Gerry Lavery, who lives in New Farnley and campaigns with Leeds Unite Community, said: “Too often late, always expensive, constantly losing services — we can’t expect people to go on with buses as they are.

“Public control is clearly the first major step we need to fix our network. If we wrestle back control of services, we’ll be able to put the public’s priorities first.”

“As campaigners, we won’t be going away until we have a decent bus service that enables people to travel easily to work, visit family and friends, get to appointments on time, go shopping and have a day out. In the 21st century, that’s not a lot to ask.”



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