London Has the Solution to Our Bus Problems

With yet more bus cuts set to hit Sheffield this year, we look at why our buses have been failing for years and what you can do to help fix them.

By Andrew Sangar, Jul 25, 2022 3:07

You're waiting at a bus stop on the way to a job interview. You checked the bus timetable and saw that the bus was set to arrive at your stop at 9:00am. But when you look at your watch, it's already 9:15am.

You're left standing there, feeling embarrassed and frustrated. You can't believe you missed your interview because the bus was late.

Unfortunately this is a frequent story in Sheffield - and it's set to get worse as 1 in 3 bus routes could be cut by the end of the year.

How it got this way

Let's be honest, buses in South Yorkshire are terrible. But this isn't just anecdotal, it's in all the numbers as well. On the most recent numbers released, passenger numbers have dropped since 2017. So has punctuality, reliability, and customer satisfaction (although they did stop recording this in 2020). The same trend can be seen longer term as well.

With the cost of running a car getting so expensive and concern about the environment at an all time high, why are passenger numbers falling?

Well it's fairly simple. Our buses don't go where people want, when they want them, at a price that is reasonable.

The current 'partnership' with the bus companies puts them in the driving seat. And their short-term businesses decisions have led us into a downward spiral. We need to put the brakes on.

The solution

Looking across the UK, one place in particular stands out: London.

Unlike Sheffield, London's buses are generally better used, go more places, and are fairly reliable. 81% of people are even happy with the fares!

London has taken control of its own buses. While companies still run the buses themselves, they are told what routes to operate, what timetables to run on, and what fares to charge. The buses are run for the benefit of the people - not the bus companies.

To the surprise of almost no one but the bus companies, when you focus on growing a city and helping its residents, more people end up making more journeys on buses!

What's next

The Sheffield Liberal Democrats have been calling for us to copy London for decades.

Recently, local Labour MP Clive Betts also joined the Lib Dems in calling for the change.

In December 2021, the Lib Dems won a vote in Sheffield City Council to back the idea.

So what's the hold up?

The power to make the change lays entirely in the South Yorkshire Mayor's hands. From the post's creation in 2018 until now, the Mayor has been a Labour politician. And ever since then, Labour have talked a lot about backing the plan but failed to set it in motion. We have no idea why - and I'm sure many Labour politicians aren't sure either.

The fact of the matter is, moving to a London-style system will be better for everyone in South Yorkshire.

It will drive us all forward, grow our economy, and help us tackle climate change.

All politicians, whatever their Party, should all get behind this plan - but you should too! Add your support to our open letter to the current South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard below.

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