Emergency meeting called to address public transport problems in city
Councillor Terry Fox, leader of Sheffield City Council has called an emergency meeting for today (26 November) with city transport operators to discuss concerns about disruption to services.
He said he wants firm assurances that everything is being done to resume service levels urgently.
Following announcements this week of timetable changes on both the Stagecoach Supertram due to driver shortages, and bus service issues due to workforce strike action, the council is calling on South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and providers Stagecoach and First to prioritise finding solutions to issues affecting public transport services across the city.
The council says the disruption follows a series of other service changes that have occurred over the last few months, which have impacted journey times and capacity on public transport, making it more difficult for residents and visitors to get around Sheffield.
In addition, First Buses, which operates many routes throughout the city, is expected to announce some service reductions in January.
Cllr Fox said: “Reducing the timetable just as we move into winter and the run up to Christmas is simply not good enough and will leave many people struggling to travel around the city at one of the busiest times of the year.
“I’ve called for an emergency meeting with the South Yorkshire Mayor, SYPTE, and transport providers to really push home the level of anger and disappointment felt out there
“I will also demand operators return to, as a minimum, the services operated at before these recent changes. A reduction in services like this cannot be accepted as the new normal. It’s simply not good enough.
“Sheffield Council has worked tirelessly alongside our regional partners to get the Government to cough-up £100m for the Supertram network, and we are steadfast in our commitment to the network – but we need providers to step up and deliver a service that meets the city’s needs.
“We need to see Stagecoach’s plan for fixing this. We will do whatever we can to the support them, and we understand the pressure they’re under, but they need to up-their-game and get on top of this – quickly.
“It’s the same with our buses – it is deeply frustrating to be in this position after 18 months when unprecedented public money has gone to operators, including over £20m to First alone.
“The council has supported the Mayoral Combined Authority to provide major resources into reviving passenger numbers, including committing millions for fare concessions and the ongoing transformation of the network.
“Whatever the challenges facing operators, a rush to cut services seriously calls into question their commitment to the city.
“Whilst we must acknowledge the driver shortages it is abundantly clear the Government has fuelled this situation – due to the ongoing uncertainty over recovery funding and lack of long-term investment plans.
“Frankly, the system is broken and not delivering for Sheffield.”
Meanwhile, South Yorkshire leaders – including Cllr Fox – have released a joint statement on First Group cuts to some bus services.
The statement, also signed by Dan Jarvis MP, South Yorkshire Mayor, Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, Mayor Ros Jones, leader of Doncaster Council and Cllr Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, says: “The planned changes are deeply disappointing, and the threat of further reductions by bus operators remains very real.
“The move comes as passengers already face disruption in the run-up to Christmas from industrial disputes between Stagecoach and its drivers.
“It is deeply frustrating to be in this position after 18 months when unprecedented public money has gone to operators, including over £20m to First alone.
“The Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) has also pumped major resources into reviving passenger numbers, including committing millions for fare concessions, and agreed an ambitious roadmap for the transformation of our network, including many measures bus companies have been clamouring for.
“At a moment when we have shown our commitment to build a better bus service for South Yorkshire, cuts would directly undermine that ambition, and risk fuelling a vicious cycle of decline.
“It is however clear that the Government has also contributed greatly to this situation – with ongoing uncertainty over continued recovery funding from April and growing doubts over long term investment adding to the pressure on operators.
“Our immediate focus now will be on minimising disruption for passengers. But we remain absolutely committed to creating a fundamentally better service.”