Operators make final push as franchise decision looms

West Yorkshire bus operators have made a push to promote their case as a decision on bus franchising in the area is due to be made.

The Best for West Yorkshire campaign group is arguing for an ‘Enhanced Partnership Plus’ model ahead of a decision to be made by the region’s Mayor on 14 March 2024. The group says their model delivers the public control the Mayor pledged during her 2021 election campaign with less financial risk to the public purse, while bringing significant improvements to passengers’ journeys much quicker than franchising. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) consultation on bus reform ended in January, with Mayor Tracy Brabin’s stated preference being franchising.

An independent poll conducted on behalf of the campaign suggested 66% of people in West Yorkshire believe the financial risk of running the region’s buses should remain with private bus operators and not transfer to taxpayers, which would be the situation if the Mayor chooses franchising. The polling, which was carried out in December 2023, included a representative sample of 1,001 General Consumers living across the five districts of West Yorkshire.

WYCA has estimated that it will need to spend at least £100m setting up the required administration, buying buses and depots from operators to prepare for a franchised system. The poll of more than 1,000 people living in the region also revealed that 60% of respondents wanted bus reform ‘from 2024 with an Enhanced Partnership Plus model between bus operators and the Combined Authority’.

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