Sheffield City Council calls emergency meeting over travel disruption

Sheffield City Council's leader has called an emergency meeting with travel operators over concerns about services in the city.

The Sheffield Supertram announced a 50% reduction in services this week due to driver shortages and Stagecoach have announced that drivers will strike for seven days next week in a dispute over pay.

First Buses are also expected to announce reductions to their services in January.

Cllr Terry Fox, the leader of Sheffield Council, has said he wants assurances from operators that everything is being done to resume services urgently.

He said: "Reducing the timetable just as we move into winter and the run up to Christmas is simply not good enough and will leave many people struggling to travel around the city at one of the busiest times of the year. 

"I've called for an emergency meeting with the South Yorkshire Mayor, SYPTE, and transport providers to really push home the level of anger and disappointment felt out there

"I will also demand that operators return to, as a minimum, the services operated at before these recent changes. A reduction in services like this cannot be accepted as the new normal. It's simply not good enough."

Tim Bilby, Managing Director for Supertram said: "As with many industries across the country, driver shortages are having an impact on our services and we unfortunately need to make some temporary timetable changes to maintain the reliability of key services and keep passengers connected across our routes. 

"Our team are working incredibly hard and we are also taking proactive steps to alleviate the situation by recruiting and training new drivers.

"From this recruitment drive, we have a strong pipeline of talented individuals currently going through our 10-week training programme. Due to the impact of Covid restrictions on our ability to train, the gap between the number of drivers we currently have, versus what we need, is unusually high and cannot be filled until we are confident our new members of the team are trained and ready for the road."

Over 500 drivers are set to strike in South Yorkshire from tomorrow. Credit: PA

More than 560 Stagecoach workers in depots in Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham, voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action after Unite members rejected a pay offer of 2 per cent.

Phil Medlicott, Managing Director for Stagecoach Yorkshire, said the group remained "open to continuing discussions" and urged drivers to call off the "unnecessary action".

Nigel Eggleton the Managing Director for First Buses South Yorkshire told ITV News that they have a number of new bus drivers in the pipeline and hope to be able to offer a full service again soon.

Mr Fox said that the disruption is not good enough given that public money has been given to the tram and bus network in Sheffield.

He added: "Sheffield Council has worked tirelessly alongside our regional partners to get the government to cough-up £100m for the Supertram network, and we are steadfast in our commitment to the network - but we need providers to step up and deliver a service that meets the city's needs. 

"It's the same with our buses - it is deeply frustrating to be in this position after 18 months when unprecedented public money has gone to operators, including over £20m to First alone.

"The council has supported the Mayoral Combined Authority to provide major resources into reviving passenger numbers, including committing millions for fare concessions and the ongoing transformation of the network."