£70m plan to ‘radically improve’ West Yorkshire bus network and reduce fares set for approval

Plans to spend almost £70m on improving bus services and reducing fares for passengers in West Yorkshire are set for approval.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority received the funding last month to deliver its bus service improvement plan, which aims to make services cheaper, more frequent and more reliable.

At a meeting on Friday, it is expected to sign off plans to spend the £69.9m it was awarded to subsidise fares, invest in new routes and “radically improve the local bus network”.

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West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has already announced the single fares will be capped at £2 and day tickets - known as WY Day Savers - will be capped at £4.50, but these prices will be reviewed each year and may be adjusted with inflation.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced last month that almost £1.1bn will be provided to support bus service improvement plans in 31 areas of the country, including two in Yorkshire.

“I know that reducing fares is going to make sure we get more footfall. We’ve got to get people back and (reducing) prices is quite a good incentive,” she said.

“It’s a tool, but it’s not just about fares. It’s about making sure there is a bus there for you to use in the first place.”

In a report, West Yorkshire Combined Authority said it will use around £25m to “reconnect communities”, particularly in towns and villages which have been “left isolated by service changes and cuts made over recent years”.

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West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has announced single fares will be capped at £2

It added: “There will also be a focus on better connections to work, education, health and leisure opportunities across the region rather than just supporting travel in and out of major urban centres. The details of this network plan will be developed over the coming months

“Other prioritised investments include improvements to network travel information, shared training for all customer facing staff, initiatives to support safer travel, and marketing and communications to promote and maximise the benefits and passenger uptake.”

The organisation, which is led by political leaders in West Yorkshire, said its plan aims to increase bus usage by 6 per cent by 2025 and improve punctuality by 90 per cent.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced last month that almost £1.1bn will be provided to support bus service improvement plans in 31 areas of the country, including two in Yorkshire.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £3bn for a “bus revolution” outside London last year that will put an end to the “fragmented, fully commercialised market” which has operated outside London since 1986.

City of York Council received £17.4m, but bids submitted by North Yorkshire County Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority were rejected outright.

However, South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard, who was elected this month, has appointed a team to conduct an assessment of proposals to bring bus services back under public control.

Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “For too long our communities have had to put up with a declining, underfunded public transport network, with regular cuts to services. That’s not ok. I’m going to do everything I can to bring about improvements as quickly as possible.

“That’s why this week I’ve agreed to designate a director with a dedicated team who will take the so-called ‘franchising’ assessment forward at pace, and I’ve also taken one of the first major steps in delivering that process.

“I’m going to continue to use every lever I have to create a network that works for our communities.”