TRANSPORT: Mayor says improving bus service is a key goal
NEWLY elected West Yorkshire Mayor Tracey Brabin spoke of how improving public transport was one of her main goals during a meeting today.
In one of her first functions since being voted into the new role this past weekend, Mrs Brabin attended an online meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee.
During the informal meeting she spoke of the region’s “broken” bus system, and said West Yorkshire needed a public transport system that was “as good, or better” than London’s.
The Transport Committee is made up of members of Councillors from West Yorkshire’s five Councils, and discusses issues ranging from bus routes to rail infrastructure.
In the past year the Committee has discussed the possibility of taking public control of the West Yorkshire’s buses.
At the meeting Mrs Brabin said: “I have been commuting into work by bus and colleagues have to listen to my bus drama – it’s late, I’ve missed a connection, the app didn’t give me the right information. I’m a living case of how tricky the bus network is.
“Mt election was focused on a fair and just recovery from Covid and we can’t recover if people can’t get around our communities, go to work, go to hospital appointments, go to college, so that joined up transport system you have worked on is a lynchpin of my focus for the next three years and beyond.
“The bus network we know isn’t working, we know it is broken.”
She said a goal was to return the bus network to public control, and added: “Rest assured I will support you in our mission to make West Yorkshire’s transport offer as good, if not better, than London’s. If it is good enough for London then it is good enough for us.”
She set out her intention to move forward with an “Enhanced Bus Partnership” while progressing work to enable the franchising of West Yorkshire’s bus services.
The partnership would unlock a share of the £3bn the Government has made available to support bus services during the recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
It will also give the Combined Authority much greater control over how public money is used to support services and make bus transport more affordable.
Councillor Dan Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth & Mixenden) said: “We have an opportunity to fix what we all recognise is a failed system and we have the opportunity to take back control and create something that delivers for the people of West Yorkshire.”
He said issues with bus services was by far the biggest issue raised with him by constituents.
Councillor Martyn Bolt (Cons, Mirfield) pointed out that if he were to drive from the New Inn in Roberttown, near Mirfield, it would take 27 minutes to drive the the Combined Authority’s headquarters in Leeds city centre – 10 miles away. The same journey would take between 62 and 72 minutes by bus.
He said: “This is the problem we face. We need to reimagine out bus network into something that serves the people. There is no direct bus service between Huddersfield and Leeds. Roberttown, upper Mirfield, they don’t have a direct service.
“There is an alternative of the train which is a 83 minute journey according to a journey planner.
“A direct service between Huddersfield and Leeds would encourage people to get out of cars.
“I can cycle to Leeds or Huddersfield from my home in the Roberttown area faster than the buses at the moment. We’ve got to get away from that and give people an efficient bus service. The key thing is how much is it going to cost the taxpayer and how much is it going to cost the user?”
The meeting was an “informal” meeting rather than a full meeting.
Changes to government guidance that came in on Monday mean any Council meeting now has to take place in person, not online.
At the start of the meeting Councillor Kim Groves, Chair, said the Combined Authority had not yet been able to identify a physical venue that was large enough to allow them to maintain social distance and was avilable.
Therefore although members could discuss issues at the meeting, no decisions could be made.
Words: Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV