'First step' to bring West Yorkshire buses back under public control

Transport bosses in West Yorkshire are about to prepare a bid to bring local bus services back under public control.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin is looking to introduce a London-style franchise system by 2025, due to long-standing concerns about services run by private operators.

She said: “I want more choice and better service for bus users. Simple and affordable fares, green buses, quicker, more frequent journeys, running where and when people need them.”

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West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) will begin drawing up a business case for the scheme, if it approves the plans at a meeting on Friday.

According to a report, it will take around two years and up to £7m to reach a point where a final decision can be made on franchising, as the business case will need to undergo an independent audit and a public consultation before the WYCA can look at implementation and procurement.

The authority has drawn up a draft roadmap, which states the franchising scheme could be operational between late 2025 and early 2027.

“The plans we’ve published are the first step to fulfilling one of my key pledges: to bring our buses back into public control,” said Ms Brabin.

“I want buses to be the first choice for travel in our region. Not because you don’t have a car, but because they’re more affordable, convenient to use, and better for the environment.

"Our buses should work for us, not the other way round.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said it is “an important first step in making real improvements for our region’s bus users”.

She added: “The steps we are taking will ultimately result in better value and improved service for the millions of people who use buses in and across West Yorkshire every week.”

Earlier this year, the Government launched a £3bn bus improvement strategy which promised to deliver cheaper fares and more frequent and more reliable services.

The Government states bus services operating outside London have become "fragmented" and local councils and operators must form "enhanced partnerships’ by April 2022 or reach franchising agreements to improve services.

The strategy also introduced daily price caps, additional evening and weekend services, and more integrated services and ticketing across different modes of transport.