In a letter signed by South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis, Sheffield Council leader Coun Terry Fox, Doncaster mayor Ros Jones, Rotherham Council leader Chris Read and Sir Stephen Houghton at Barnsley Council, all have said they’re ‘deeply frustrated’ at the predicament.
The leaders are dismayed at the news just 18 months following a £20 million bailout to First South Yorkshire as a result of pandemic pressures.
Bus bosses at First apologised for the cuts to services but said this was down to a ‘driver shortage’.
They added that a recruitment drive was well underway with many future drivers in training.
First Group notified the SYMCA that they are intending to make cuts to some of the services they provide in South Yorkshire, especially in Sheffield.
The MCA is said to be ‘engaging with the company’ which has postponed wider cuts elsewhere for the time being.
But the five leaders said the planned changes are deeply disappointing, and the threat of further reductions by bus operators ‘remains very real’.
The move comes as passengers already face disruption in the run-up to Christmas from industrial disputes between Stagecoach and its drivers.
But the leaders added that the government ‘has also contributed greatly to this situation’ and referenced the ‘ongoing uncertainty over continued recovery funding from April and growing doubts over long term investment adding to the pressure on operators’.
The leaders said: “Our immediate focus now will be on minimising disruption for passengers. But we remain absolutely committed to creating a fundamentally better service. That includes, as we have always intended, bringing forward proposals for the January MCA meeting to consider starting the formal process of investigating bus franchising as a way to deliver the service South Yorkshire needs.
“Meanwhile, we will continue to work closely with operators and government, and to make the case for them to back the transformative vision for buses they say they support. But with or without them, we will keep fighting to better connect our region, support our businesses, and stave off pollution, congestion and a growing climate crisis. This agenda is too important to do otherwise.”
Nigel Eggleton , managing director at First South Yorkshire said; “ We have recently introduced some changes to routes and journeys within our network to manage the driver shortage situation that is being experienced by us and many other bus operators up and down the country.
“We are continuing to monitor demand across all our services and individual journeys and will be concentrating our provision in these areas. We will continue to communicate any further changes that need to be introduced to keep our services reliable.
“Our next review with potential service changes will be in January where there may be further adjustments to some journeys as demand and travel patterns change.
“I want to apologise in advance to customers who may be affected with the changes we have been introducing, and I want to reassure everyone that we are doing everything we possibly can to address the challenges we are experiencing.”