To receive a verbal update from South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority Transport on bus service changes.
Andy Wright from SYCA gave a verbal update to the group on bus service changes.
• Regarding the challenges moving forward, bus patronage was 75% to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, this was affecting commercial sustainability on some routes and had led to the reduction in frequencies of services and service withdrawals. There was no evidence to suggest that the reduction in frequencies of services and service withdrawals would increase.
• An area of concern was the reduction in the purchase of the elderly people’s passes and these highlighted the challenges faced by different age and mobility profiles in accessing public transport, caused by a variety of reasons such as confidence in the safety of travel due to it being a confined space.
• Community transport was also facing the same challenge as patronage was drastically reduced compared to pre-pandemic levels.
• The SYMCA awarded a significant number of tenders for a three-year duration for daytime services. SYMCA were unable to commit to funding evening and Sunday services due to the required total cost being 11 million pounds a year and the SYMCA only had 4 million pounds available to contribute.
• There were on-going discussions with the leaders of four main transport operatives with the SYMCA regarding how to progress and ensure longer term provisions on evening and Sunday services.
• There had been a published paper considered by the SYMCA which sought tenders for a reduced frequency at those times, to ensure a minimum of an hourly service on evenings and Sundays for employment sites and routes past hospitals. This process had begun and there would be formal sign off from SYMCA on the 31st of July with the changes being implemented from the 1st of November.
• To be able to implement the changes discussed, the SYMCA considered policy changes, this included reviewing the offer of the young person’s Zoom discount fare, with the intention of raising the fare from seventy pence up to one pound from the 1st of October.
• Another policy change considered was withdrawing the Zoom Beyond offer, which enabled people between the age of eighteen to twenty-one to travel for eighty pence. Once approved, the two policy changes would relieve an estimated amount of two and a half million pounds of savings for SYMCA, which would then be re-invested to secure additional bus services.
• The Department for Transport had confirmed that additional funding of 3.1 billion would be allocated to the SYMCA for the financial year, with a further 3.1 billion anticipated, but not yet confirmed for the period of 2024 to 2025.
• Although this was not an insignificant amount of funding, it was a significant reduction to the level of funding that the MCA had received in previous years. The funding allowed the SYMCA to support existing services and purchase additional tendered services. The funding was welcomed, and the MCA were progressing discussions with operators to secure services going forward to ensure stability.
The Chair thanked Andy Wright for the update and welcomed questions from members which led to the following discission points being raises:
• There was an annual budget agreed, with longer term forecasting as contracts covered a period of three years on average and were not re-tendered annually.
• The transportation market was a de-regulated market and operators worked on a commercially viable basis. The cost-of-living crisis had increased costs and decreased profitability. There had been a reduction in patronage, increase in fuel cost and an increase in labour costs.
• The bus operators would determine whether a particular service was commercially viable and would withdraw services that were not.
• The SYMCA role was to fill as many of gaps within the networks as possible, within the financial resources that were available.
1) That information be provided by the SYMCA to all members in writing, relating to the level of young people that may be affected by the removal of the Zoom Beyond bus pass.
2) That the link to the website containing the information on the changes considered by the SYMCA be provided to all members via email.