West Yorkshire takes control of buses in major transport overhaul

Posted: 20 March 2024 | | No comments yet

West Yorkshire’s decision to bring buses under local control, through franchising, signals a pivotal shift towards a more integrated and passenger-centric transportation network.

West Yorkshire takes control of buses in major transport overhaul

Credit: West Yorkshire Combined Authority

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has announced its decision to bring buses under local control, marking the most significant shake-up in the region’s public transport system in decades. This pivotal decision, spearheaded by the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, aims to address longstanding issues of reliability, frequency and overall standards plaguing the current deregulated system.

Under this new approach, known as franchising, WYCA will assume authority over routes, frequencies, fares and quality standards for buses, wresting control from private operators. These operators will now be contracted to run services on behalf of the Combined Authority, marking a shift towards a more integrated and passenger-centric transportation network.

Buses constitute the backbone of public transport in West Yorkshire, serving as a vital lifeline for communities and facilitating essential travel for work, education and social activities. However, years of decline in patronage coupled with increasing reliance on public funding have underscored the urgent need for reform.

Despite prior efforts outlined in the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), which aimed to enhance services, West Yorkshire has consistently ranked at the bottom for customer satisfaction, as highlighted in a recent survey by Transport Focus.

The decision to adopt a franchised model reflects the Mayor’s commitment to realising a greener, more cohesive and accessible transport infrastructure for the region. Mayor Tracy Brabin has emphasised the significance of empowering the public through this initiative, ensuring accountability and prioritising passengers’ needs over corporate interests.

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The move follows a comprehensive three-month consultation process, during which an overwhelming majority of respondents expressed support for franchising, affirming the community’s desire for change.

Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “I’m delighted to announce that we are taking back control of our buses in West Yorkshire, empowering the public to hold me to account for better services. For too long, buses have been run in the interests of private companies, not passengers. Franchising will help us build a better-connected bus network that works for all, not just company shareholders.”

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The Mayor of West Yorkshire’s decision to franchise buses will transform passenger experience in the region, with better routes, better pricing and simpler ticketing systems. By better connecting people to jobs and educational opportunities, bus franchising in West Yorkshire will have a direct impact on productivity and prosperity in the region.”

To ensure a smooth transition, franchising will be introduced in phases, with the first franchised buses up and running in parts of Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield from March 2027. In the interim, WYCA remains committed to advancing its Bus Service Improvement Plan, which has already yielded positive outcomes such as the introduction of the £2 Mayor’s Fares, enhanced frequencies, infrastructure investments and the launch of new bus services.

Looking ahead, a comprehensive package of further bus improvements is set to be unveiled in May 2024.