Bus rivals to trial co-operation over ticketing and timetables

RIVAL bus firms have agreed to stop competing and work together as part of a pilot project drawn up by public transport bosses in a bid to boost passenger numbers and reduce congestion.

At present First South Yorkshire and Stagecoach both run services on the route between Fulwood and Halfway in Sheffield, with completely separate timetables and ticketing arrangements.

Both companies have continuously changed their timetables in a bid to win a commercial advantage over each other, but have now been persuaded to alter their approach.

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South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), which oversees all public transport services in the county, has come up with the scheme, and said it could be extended if successful.

Passengers travelling on the trial route will be able to buy a ticket on a bus run by one operator but will be able to use it on any bus on the route, which will be known as the Optio Orange route.

All buses operating the new ticketing will display a special logo and prices on the route will include a maximum single fare of £1.40, an all-day fare of £3 and a weekly ticket, which will cost £9.

Other operators, including TM Travel and Veolia, which run buses at less popular times of day and at weekends under contract, will also accept the new tickets on the designated route.

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David Young, SYPTE’s director of customer experience, said that although the timetable changes meant fewer buses on the road, the travelling public should notice an improvement in services.

He added: “Co-ordinating timetables between the operators should stop the scenario of two buses arriving within two minutes of each other and then large gaps with people waiting 10 minutes or more.

“Having the two companies operating on one timetable means there will be less buses, which should improve congestion for other road users, but a better, more regular service should increase passenger numbers.”

Mr Young said the new arrangements on the route will be introduced on Sunday, July 24, and would affect users of the 42, 44, 49, 50/50A, 53/53A, 120 and 123 services.

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It is hoped they will deliver the same benefits as a so-called quality bus contract, which would formally force operators to work together and provide a service in line with stipulations laid down by SYPTE.

David Brown, SYPTE’s director general, said: “We know that what passengers want is a bus network that is simple and stable, and which offers a reliable and punctual service. This unique new agreement should help to give us that.”

Most commercial bus operators are unhappy with the idea of quality contracts and on a visit to the city last year, Stagecoach’s national boss Brian Soutar said he would fight their introduction.

It is thought that Sheffield’s bus operators have agreed to the voluntary arrangements in a bid to stave off having to sign a contract, although Mr Young said yesterday that a formalised, legal arrangement is still under consideration if other options fail.

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Dave Alexander, regional managing director of First UK Bus, said: “We are delighted to have worked in partnership with SYPTE and other bus operators to develop this new and innovative arrangement and very much look forward to developing it further to support the growth of the market throughout South Yorkshire.

“Our desire is to encourage more people to use our buses and we look forward to seeing whether this new way of working achieves these shared goals, which we have in common to the PTE and other operators.”

Paul Lynch, managing director of Stagecoach Yorkshire, added: “We welcome the opportunity to play a key role in this new partnership which will deliver improvements for customers including increased frequencies, more choice and a better co-ordination of timetables.”