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The number of people using bus services in West Yorkshire has
been falling despite efforts by Metro and bus operators to improve
the quality of buses and the punctuality of services.
Bus services in West Yorkshire are run by privately-owned bus
companies who can choose which bus routes to run, when and how
often. They can also decide how much to charge in fares.
Bus services have to make profits and dividends for the
operators' shareholders. When their costs increase, operators have
to generate more passengers, pass on those increased costs to
passengers by increasing fares or try to make their operations more
efficient - usually through cutting out less profitable routes.
In recent years we have repeatedly seen this cycle with fares
rising above inflation and services being cut and the number of
fare-paying passengers falling. Operators' right to change or
withdraw services at two months' notice, without fully taking
account of the wishes of local communities, means that the West
Yorkshire bus network is not as stable as customers would like.
As well as bus fares rising significantly in recent years, each
operator has its own fares and tickets making things confusing for
passengers. These tickets can only be used on each company's own
services, which can make it difficult for passengers to change
between different buses or between bus and other types of
To understand what would encourage people to use buses more,
Metro carried out some market research in March 2010. People told
us that they want to see bus services that:
People told us that tickets, which could be used on all local
bus and rail services, and more coordination between bus services
would have a significant positive impact.
Do you agree with Metro's
vision for bus services in West Yorkshire?
Do you agree that Metro
should introduce a Quality Contract Scheme that would make bus
operators more accountable to Council taxpayers?
Metro and the five West Yorkshire District Councils have
published the West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan
which sets out a 15-year strategy for the development of West
Yorkshire's transport system from 2011.
Developing a strategy for improving bus services is an important
part of the this Plan. Our vision is to have a fully integrated
local bus network which is easy to understand, reliable, accessible
to all and which offers an attractive alternative to car travel.
The improvements that we would like to see include:
We believe that these are the priorities for improving bus
travel in West Yorkshire.
Metro is developing proposals for a 'Quality Bus Contract
scheme' (QBC) to help deliver this vision for improved local bus
services. Introduced by the Transport Act 2000, Quality Bus
Contracts allow Metro to specify what the local bus network should
be and how it should be operated.
A Quality Bus Contract Scheme would mean that Metro would be
responsible for deciding where buses run, how often they run, what
fares and tickets are available, what quality standards buses run
to and what happens if things go wrong. Metro would make these
decisions based on local needs and priorities and affordability.
Bus operators would then have to bid to run bus services on Metro's
behalf. This is similar to the public transport system that
operates in London and most European cities.
Metro is aware that moving to a London-style public transport
system carries some significant risks, not least of which is costs.
Under a QBC Metro would be responsible for taking on the risks
associated with running local bus services. If for instance, fuel
prices increased dramatically, this extra cost would have to be
funded either through more public subsidy, fares would have to go
up, or services changed. Metro would ensure that where difficult
decisions have to be made, those decisions are made on the basis of
local issues and opinions and that the decision-makers would also
be accountable to voters.