Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin has taken the first steps towards bringing buses back under public control.

Plans published by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which coincide with Clean Air Day 2021, propose starting the process towards franchising local bus services and going into an Enhanced Partnership with bus operators to deliver improvements for passengers.

Ms Brabin believes these measures will result in a more flexible bus network, improved accessibility, more routes and bus times that meet the needs of travellers, with simpler fares.

Ms Brabin said: “The plans we’ve published are the first step to fulfilling one of my key pledges: to bring our buses back into public control.

“I want buses to be the first choice for travel in our region. Not because you don’t have a car but because they’re more affordable, convenient to use, and better for the environment. Our buses should work for us, not the other way round.

“I want more choice and better service for bus users. Simple and affordable fares, green buses, quicker, more frequent journeys, running where and when people need them.

“So if you’re working an early or late shift in the hospitality sector or our NHS, or on a night out, you should be able to count on there being a safe bus to get you home.”

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The plans will be discussed by the mayor and the region’s political leaders at the next meeting of the Combined Authority on Thursday June 24, with the recommendation to progress bus franchising as quickly as the process allows.

Government timescales mean that the earliest date that an operational franchise could begin is late 2025 but the mayor will start the process straight away.

The mayor’s plan has been welcomed by bus operator Transdev, which has recently acquired Yorkshire Tiger and will operate routes in Huddersfield for the first time.

The No36 Transdev bus in Leeds

Transdev CEO Alex Hornby said: “We’re proud of what has been achieved already, from booming customer growth on the 36, our flagship route between Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon, reaching 21% prior to the pandemic – and our continued multi-million-pound investment in new, high-spec buses.

“The way we do business has been hailed as best practice in the Government’s National Bus Strategy, and our team’s efforts have been rewarded by 10 industry awards in the past five years.

“All our front-line buses in West Yorkshire feature wi-fi and USB charging, and meet or exceed Clean Air Zone targets.

“Buses run until midnight across the network and usually until 3am on certain routes. Meanwhile, we have fully rolled out contactless payments and tap and cap ticketing on all our buses across Yorkshire. 

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“But we know there’s lots more to do. If the bus is to be at the heart of our post-pandemic recovery, there’s no time to lose in carrying on making our buses as amazing as they can be.

“We’ve shown we know how to grow our bus network and attract new customers – and we’re investing now to deliver real improvements where they’re needed most.

“Following our acquisition this summer of Yorkshire Tiger and its services in and around Huddersfield and Halifax, we’re planning to replace a fifth of its fleet with more high-spec, low emission buses in our first three months.

A Yorkshire Tiger bus

“We see an Enhanced Partnership as a positive opportunity to deliver the improvements everyone wants, while achieving best value for taxpayers.

“We look forward to working with the mayor and the Combined Authority to make it happen for West Yorkshire.”