Liberal Democrats in Kirklees have called for the Government to do more to protect local bus services.

The demand follows a recent announcement by West Yorkshire Combined Authority that bus services across Kirklees and the wider West Yorkshire region would be reduced from July onwards.

One of the bus operators, First Bus, have made timetable changes, which started earlier this month, and which will mainly affect early morning and late-night bus services across the district.

With bus passenger numbers around 15% below pre-Covid levels, the Government had provided £2 billion in additional funding to help bus operators and local transport authorities to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 across the country, with over 140 bus operators participating in the scheme and covering more than 4,600 bus routes.

The Bus Recovery Grant was due to come to end at the end of March 2023, but was extended to the end of last month.

However, the funding has now expired and there are fears that the viability of a number of bus services are at risk, and bus companies say that they still need support to maintain services.

Since July 2 this year, several bus services across Kirklees have been cut. This includes the 301 and 302, operated by First Bus which covers Huddersfield and Golcar.

Evening journeys on the 370 bus (Rawthorpe – Huddersfield – Lindley) have also been significantly re-timed, while there are also reductions in service on the 371 bus (Dalton – Huddersfield – Lindley), 372 (Almondbury – Huddersfield – Lindley) and the 686, 687 and 688 buses (which covers Bradford, Scholes and Brighouse).

The bus reductions will affect all the wards in Kirklees which are represented by Liberal Democrat councillors – Almondbury, Cleckheaton, Golcar and Lindley. Kirklees Liberal Democrat group have said that the changes will negatively impact on residents.

Lindley councillors Anthony Smith and Cahal Burke have written to First Bus to express concerns about the bus timetable changes, pointing out that it will affect NHS staff who work at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, as well as many other residents who rely on the bus services.

Almondbury councillor Alison Munro previously contacted bus operators to express concerns about the withdrawal of the 317 and 372 bus services.

Kirklees Lib Dem group leader Clr John Lawson (below) said: “The changes will significantly affect early morning and late-night bus services and the changes could result in a lot of people stranded.

“Many of our residents depend on these services to get out and about – to get to work and back, visit family and friends, get to the shops or access vital services.

“They keep our communities connected. They also perform a vital role in reducing the reliance on cars and can help us to meet our net-zero ambitions and make our air cleaner.

“Already, bus operators are reducing services but the danger is that they will need to make further cuts, as bus patronage has not returned to pre-pandemic levels and inflationary pressures are driving up the cost of bus operations.

“Further cuts to our bus networks would further devastate our local communities, damage our local economies and effect livelihoods.

“Residents are also telling us that the remaining bus services are becoming overcrowded. Pushchairs and wheelchair users are also struggling to find suitable space on the buses for their journeys.

“Although the emergency Government financial support for bus operators was welcome, I think the funding was quite piecemeal and this created some uncertainty for bus operators and for passengers.

“As the Bus Recovery Grant comes to an end and no indication that more revenue support will be provided, we need the Government to intervene urgently, with additional funding support and a long-term plan to keep the buses running.

“In time, I expect that ridership and fares income will increase but, in the meantime, we need a long-term funding stream of support for bus services which are at risk.”