Bus companies have been accused of “putting profits before public services” after pocketing a Government grant but still cutting services.
The claim was made by Kirklees Council leader Clr Shabir Pandor at a meeting of the council’s Cabinet.
From the start of October bus services across West Yorkshire – including parts of Huddersfield – will see services withdrawn or reduced.
That comes despite the Government agreeing to continue post-Covid financial support for bus companies who said that passenger numbers still hadn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, putting services at risk.
The Bus Recovery Grant had been set to end in October but bus companies warned that without the grant 26 services would be withdrawn and 100 services would see reductions, around one-sixth of West Yorkshire’s bus network.
That led to lobbying by Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin and other Northern mayors. As a result the Government agreed to extend the grant until March 2023.
According to West Yorkshire Metro, which oversees bus services across the county, bus services will see significant changes from October 2 and 3.
Services affected include: the 231 and 232 Huddersfield, Lepton, Flockton, Horbury, Wakefield bus which will see some early evening services withdrawn; the 301 and 302 Huddersfield, Milnsbridge and Golcar service, which will see the 19.45 service withdrawn and timings changed by up to 15 minutes; and the 308 Huddersfield, Honley, Netherthong, Holmfirth service, which will see the 16.05 Holmfirth to Huddersfield journey withdrawn and timings changed by around five minutes.
Also, the 323 Huddersfield, Netherton, Meltham service, which will see Saturday services reduced from hourly to every 90 minutes and timings changed on all weekday journeys by up to 20 minutes; the 360 Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, Huddersfield, Bradley Boulevard bus which will be revised and no longer serve Brackenhall; and the 387 Huddersfield, Beaumont Park service which sees Saturday services reduced from hourly to every 90 minutes and weekday journeys retimed by around 20 minutes.
One of the routes seeing the most change is the 254 and 254A Leeds, Drighlington, Gomersal, Cleckheaton, Brighouse service.
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting Kirklees Council’s Conservative leader Clr David Hall (Liversedge & Gomersal) asked if the council had been consulted over the changes.
Clr Pandor replied: “We weren’t consulted. We aren’t the only local authority in West Yorkshire impacted by the cuts. The other four local authorities – Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Calderdale – have all had an adverse impact.
“We managed to get the Bus Recovery Grant extended – the Government quite rightly extended it – because people are still trying to get back on buses and the capacity is still well below what was expected.
“What’s happened is the bus companies have taken this money but, rather than make sure their operations carry on, a lot of them have cut their services for one reason or another and that’s really not what the money was there for.
“I know that Tracy’s office and the transport committee are lobbying the bus companies very, very hard.
“If a bus company withdraws the service and we have to put the tender back out we will make sure the bus company that withdrew cannot put another tender in because they are trying to have their cake and eat, so to speak.
“It’s very serious. Being given the money and then cutting the services just does not add up. It’s very clear the bus companies are putting profits before public services.
“It’s not just Kirklees, it’s across West Yorkshire. We need to work with Government to make sure we get that bus service back in operation and improve the services, not cut them.”
In September Ms Brabin introduced ‘Mayor’s Fares’ which capped bus fares in West Yorkshire at £2 per journey in a bid to encourage people back onto the buses and help with the cost-of-living crisis.
Clr Hall said that his area had been particularly badly affected by the changes and added: “It’s getting to be a growing issue and if we aren’t careful we will have these lovely £2 bus fares, which are great, but we will have no buses.”