Free buses to go
Councillors from South Yorkshire ITA (SYITA) have agreed to discontinue free bus services in Sheffield and Rotherham from the end of April. The FreeBee services are publically funded. The councillors are also to stop the express 638 bus service in Doncaster, which runs weekday peak times between Doncaster’s North and South Park and Ride sites via the town centre. They have also agreed to scale back the concessionary fare scheme for older people as they look to make big budget savings. The cutbacks have been approved by the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (SYITA) and come as councillors are required to make savings of almost 10% to transport budgets.
The OAP and disabled persons concessionary travel scheme is to be scaled back so that weekday free travel is available from 09.30 to 23.00, bringing South Yorkshire in line with the rest of the country outside of London. For elderly people it currently operates from 09.00. Councillors also voted to withdraw rail travel from the concessionary scheme, meaning for certain categories of rail users the concession will only be available on bus or tram. However, customers will still be able to take advantage of discounted Railcard deals offered by rail operators. Grants to community transport services will also be cut, although operators will be able to offset this by raising fares by 50p. Child concessionary fares will not go up this April and evening, weekend and rural bus services funded by SYPTE have been protected from cuts too. Talks are taking place with operators with a view to introducing new young persons’ daily and weekly tickets to make public transport more affordable.
Over the past three years SYPTE has had its budget slashed by over £17m and has made what it described as ‘deep cuts’ in its workforce. The budget reductions SYITA has agreed means the budget for 2014/15 is cut by a further £8.3m, with SYPTE’s workforce reduced by a further 16%.