South Yorkshire metro mayor Dan Jarvis has taken a step towards bus franchising for the region but will also continue work ‘in parallel’ to implement an Enhanced Partnership (EP) model.
Mr Jarvis will put proposals for the formal investigation of franchising to a special meeting of the South Yorkshre Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) on 4 March.
He said: ‘I continue to believe in the huge potential of our buses, but it is clear the current system in South Yorkshire is not delivering as it should. We have to look at every option to transform our region’s transport – and that has to include franchising.
‘Franchising is not a silver bullet and we should be under no illusion about the challenges we face, irrespective of which bus model we choose. But greater public control has the potential to help build a bus system that better meets the needs and priorities of South Yorkshire.
'The assessment is a critical step that sets the stage for franchising if we are satisfied the case has been made.’
He added: ‘Moving to the formal franchising assessment is the right decision for South Yorkshire. But I want and need operators to act like real partners now, for government to continue emergency funding support, and provide the transformative investment they promised.
‘Without that we cannot hope to reverse the cycle of decline – and build the future that South Yorkshire deserves.’
The SYMCA said its proposed assessment of bus franchising, which represents first step in the statutory process, follows plans to develop an EP in response to the National Bus Strategy, adding that work to establish and implement the EP continues, ‘in order to deliver passenger benefits’.
In fact, the papers for the meeting point out that that guidance issued by the Department for Transport (DfT), ‘set out the requirement for Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Authorities to enter into an Enhanced Partnership to access Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funding’. This applies unless a franchising model is in place.
The SYMCA said the EP’s blueprint for bus reform, which it said was founded on feedback from the region’s Bus Review, includes proposals for free travel for under 18s and capped fares for all passengers; bus priority measures to make journeys quicker; better journey planning information; ‘turn up and go’ bus options, and zero emission buses to make travel cleaner and greener towards a net-zero future.
The EP Plan and Scheme was recently subject to a public consultation and would form a legally binding agreement between SYMCA and local bus operators to deliver the actions set out in the region’s Bus Service Improvement Plan.
Although the DfT has stipulated what transport authorities need to do to secure 'a share of the new £3 billion funding' to improve services said to be largely available from April under the strategy, it has so far not