West Yorkshire operators propose franchising alternative

As a public consultation opens on the future of bus services in West Yorkshire, bus operators from across the region have revealed a dynamic new plan for bus reform. And they are confident it meets the ambitions of the local Mayor, Tracy Brabin.

The move comes as WYCA began a public consultation on franchising the region’s bus network earlier this month. The consultation runs until 7 January, with people able to have their say at numerous drop-in sessions, via an online form or by post.

A Combined Authority assessment, which has been reviewed by an independent auditor, looked at the options for bus reform and concluded that franchising would offer ‘clear strategic benefits’. The assessment also looked at the benefits of new partnerships with local bus operators, known as ‘enhanced partnership plus’.

‘The Best for West Yorkshire’ campaign sets out the case for an ‘Enhanced Partnership Plus’ (EP+) scheme, which the operators are confident will deliver benefits for customers including accelerating public control without the burden and financial risk of a franchise model. Arriva, FirstBus and Transdev are involved in the campaign, with the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) representing smaller operators.

Enhanced Partnership Plus would see the network controlled through a Network Management Group, overseen by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA). It is intended to deliver all the benefits of Bus Reform: a better bus network, including improved reliability, more frequent services, simpler ticketing, unified customer service and electrification of the fleet.

The operators say it would provide immediate improvements to bus services, whereas the Mayor’s preferred ‘franchising’ route would not come into operation until 2027 at the earliest. The operators believe their option also ensures there is less financial risk to West Yorkshire’s public purse.

“We recognise there needs to be reform and firmly believe we can go faster to bring about change” – Spokesperson for the  West Yorkshire operators

A spokesperson for the operators said: “We recognise there needs to be reform and firmly believe we can go faster to bring about change.

“In partnership with the CA and mayoral authority, we’ve jointly rolled-out the ‘Mayor’s Fares’ initiative, capping Single trips at £2, have made travel for young people under 19 simpler and fairer on any bus and led the way in introducing a greener fleet of buses.

“All of this has been delivered in partnership, which is what makes Enhanced Partnership Plus the stronger and less risky choice to guarantee the best bus service for West Yorkshire.

“We welcome the consultation into the future of bus services in the region and look forward to working with our partners, passengers and the public to arrive at the best solution for everyone in the region.”

Following the consultation, the results of which will be published, a final decision is expected to be made on the future of West Yorkshire’s buses in Spring 2024.

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