The '˜heartbreak' of workers who are fired because the bus fails to turn up
Coun Judith Blake said she had heard “heartbreaking stories” in her local surgery from people who had lost their job because their bus did not appear three times in a week.
“They got the sack because they couldn’t get to work,” she told a breakfast event in Aspire, in Leeds.
“It’s those sort of stories we need to keep at the forefront of our minds when we are talking about the investment we need to bring in.”
During the breakfast event, which had the title “Transport and infrastructure - What’s Next for Leeds?” Coun Blake made an impassioned plea for the development of an “integrated” public transport system which served the needs of everyone.
She said a major consultation exercise had shown that the vast majority of people in Leeds depended on bus travel for their daily needs. Speaking afterwards, she told The Yorkshire Post that she wanted to improve public transport connectivity across the city region.
For example, she wanted to help young people who lived in parts of the city with poor connectivity to public transport to get to college, so they can gain the skills they need to find work.
She added: “We need to have far more understanding of the demographics of a city like Leeds to inform where we put the investment.”
Coun Blake said she had just received another email from a Leeds resident, who was worried about getting to work because of cuts in early morning bus services.
She said: “We have to understand collectively - the bus companies, ourselves and businesses - just what people actually need to get them to be able to access the jobs that are being created.
“I think we’re starting to do that, but we need to do far more to help people, many of whom live in areas where a third of the households don’t have access to a private car.
“So it’s not just about the main routes; we also have to consider how people get from their house on to the network, and then to their ultimate destination.”
“The key message is that we haven’t got an integrated (transport) system at the moment,’’ she added.
Coun Blake said investment was needed to get people from their communities on to the main network, “whatever those main networks are, whether they are rapid buses, trams or heavy rail”.
She said the council was working with partners at a city region level to gain a greater understanding people’s needs.
Coun Blake said there was a real sense of pride coming back to the North of England, which has been boosted by the development of the Northern Powerhouse and Transport for the North.
She added: “We have the keys to the economic prosperity of the whole country.”
Bus services are crucial to supporting the local economy, according to Paul Matthews, managing director of First Leeds, which serves 50m customer journeys a year.
He added: “I agree with Coun Blake that we all need to do more as our city grows. In particular we must collectively tackle the problem of congestion so we can provide the reliable services that customers expect and provide a real alternative to the car to free up road space.
“Initiatives such as Park&Ride and new network links such as the service 12 extension to White Rose Shopping Centre all help, but traffic delays such as those caused by roadworks in Headingley and motorway closures this week cause huge frustration for our customers.”
“Coun Blake is right when she points to the need to work collectively, and together with the Combined Authority and other operators, we believe the new partnership framework as part of the Leeds Transport Strategy, will provide us with that opportunity to jointly put in place the transport solutions our growing city needs.”