A £2 per journey cap on bus fares and a £25m fund to improve services in areas hit by recent bus cots have been announced today.
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has introduced a new policy that will begin in September, and has been described as “an ambitious plan for urgent times.
The changes will mean no single journey bus tickets will cost more than £2. Ms Brabin claims this would mean some passengers would save around £1.50 per journey.
As well as single fares, the multi-operator DaySaver tickets available through the MCard app and smartcard will be reduced from £5.50 to £4.50 from September.
And the £25m fund will be used to “reconnect as many communities as possible left isolated by service changes over recent years will also be made available.”
Bus services in West Yorkshire have faced a difficult few years. Plummeting passenger levels due to the pandemic have drastically reduced income, requiring Government to provide emergency funding to keep them afloat.
Passenger levels have still yet to return to normal, and with Government funding expected to end later this year, there have been fears there could be a wave of service cuts.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority, made up of the five West Yorkshire Councils, submitted its revised Bus Service Improvement Plan to the Department for Transport earlier this month.
The new £2 maximum fare will be negotiated with the bus operators through the new West Yorkshire Enhanced Partnership, a partnership between the Authority and bus companies that started on April 1.
Ms Brabin said: “When I became Mayor a year ago, I promised to make bus fares simpler and cheaper across West Yorkshire. Through our new Enhanced Partnership with bus operators that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“The proposed new £2 maximum fare will make a difference to people’s lives, helping to make bus travel an affordable choice. It will significantly cut the cost of travel for people making journeys over three miles, in some cases by £1.50.
“You can hop on a bus from Marsh to Lindley, Bradford to Keighley or Halifax to Leeds and know that you won’t have to pay more than £2 for your trip.
“And the full roll-out of ‘tap-on, tap-off’ next year means people won’t have to plan their journeys in advance – they can travel on as many buses as they need for the whole day and never pay more than £4.50.
“We’ll also be investing over £25m to develop new bus routes to reconnect those communities left isolated by recent service changes, particularly in our towns and villages, to help people reach health and leisure services, work and learning opportunities, and to see family and friends.
“Our consultations on which new and existing routes to support will begin next month.
“I want people to see buses as the first choice for the journey they want to make. The investments we’re making to reduce fares, develop new routes and introduce new zero emission buses mean they will be a cost-effective environmentally-friendly way to travel in West Yorkshire for years to come.”
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford City Council and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: “The cost of living crisis demands bold action.
“So this is an ambitious plan for urgent times from the Mayor and West Yorkshire leaders.
“I remain concerned however that Government in September is still planning to cut the Bus Recovery Grant which has kept bus operators going during the pandemic while bus passenger numbers have been lower. We will keep lobbying government on this.
“The economic impacts of the pandemic are still being felt and passenger numbers are not yet back to where they were pre-pandemic. The bus industry will need continuing support beyond September.
“Sustaining economic recovery is going to need all our efforts and resources both at regional and national level. Buses are a key part of our economic recovery plans and we will do all we can with the funding available to improve services.”
If the plans are approved by the Department for Transport later this year, the new £2 maximum fare will be the first scheme delivered under West Yorkshire’s Enhanced Partnership.