Bus services in West Yorkshire to be brought back under public control

The Mayor decided to bring buses under local control - through a process known as franchising - as recommended by the Combined Authority at its meeting in Leeds today. Credit: ITV News

Bus services in West Yorkshire will be brought under public control in a historic move to launch a new franchising system designed to reverse a decline in services.

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin announced what has been called the biggest overhaul of public transport in the region for 40 years following a public consultation.

The authority received 2,778 campaign responses and a petition of more than 12,000 signatures supporting the move.

Routes, frequencies, fares and overall standards for buses in the region will be set by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) – not private operators, who will instead be contracted to run services on the Combined Authority’s behalf. 

The current deregulated system has seen a decline in passengers over many years and the increasing use of public funding to support services.

The WYCA, which oversees services, says services are too infrequent and unreliable, with West Yorkshire ranking bottom for customer satisfaction according to one survey.

A new package of bus improvements for services across the region is also set to be announced in May. Credit: West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Ms Brabin said: “For too long, buses have been run in the interests of private companies, not passengers. Franchising will help us build a better-connected bus network that works for all, not just company shareholders.    

“But we know that change will not happen overnight - the hard work we’ve been doing to improve the bus network continues while we work at pace to bring this new way of running the buses to our 2.4 million residents.”

Franchising will be introduced in stages, with the first being introduced in parts of Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield from March 2027.

A new package of bus improvements for services across the region is also set to be announced in May.

Andrew Cullen, managing director of the First Bus company in West Yorkshire, said: "We want to continue working with WYCA to deliver more improvements to bus operations for our communities, building on our investment in West Yorkshire’s largest zero emission bus fleet.

“We are reviewing the detail underlying today’s decision and, in the meantime, look forward to understanding WYCA’s next steps, following the Mayor’s recommendation to proceed with the proposed franchising scheme.”

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