Previous partnership offer from operators rejected due to no inclusion of integrated ticketing system
West Yorkshire’s Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) members are being asked to support the introduction of England’s first Quality Contract framework for the county’s bus services.
Metro is to recommend councillors approve the introduction of a Bus Quality Contract Scheme, which it claims provides significant customer benefits including integrated ticketing, higher service standards, network stability and pricing structure and improved local accountability for service standards.
Metro Chairman Cllr James Lewis said: “Around 180 million bus journeys are made in West Yorkshire each year, representing 90% of all public transport use, so we value our relationships with local bus operators. If approved, this new framework is an opportunity to develop the strong partnerships we already have, based upon aligned incentives and with risks and rewards shared between partners.”
The recent partnership offer made by ABOWY, the Association of Bus Operators of West Yorkshire, was rejected by Cllr Lewis as it did not offer a common integrated ticketing system – like London’s.
Cllt Lewis claimed ABOWY’s offer failed to address concerns regarding value for money raised by a recent Competition Commission investigation nor provide sufficient certainty about its delivery.
“When ITA colleagues and I attend public meetings on transport it is clear people across West Yorkshire are unhappy with some bus services – reflected by a steady drop in passenger numbers over the past 10 to 15 years,” continued Cllr Lewis. “Because councillors are listening to the public, Metro’s work towards the Quality Contract framework has received cross-party backing from the ITA.
“No matter what party they represent, colleagues recognise buses are vital to West Yorkshire’s economy and wellbeing. The current deregulated framework, has led to fragmentation, lack of long term planning, instability, inadequate rewards for some and excessive profits for others. It’s not working.
Annually, Metro spends £23m subsidising local bus services, £50m on the county’s concessionary fares scheme and £1m on infrastructure. Cllr Lewis said his ITA colleagues understood the potential risks involved in developing and implementing a bus quality contract scheme but currently no cost figures have been released. A spokesman for Metro said the scheme was within its current level of expenditure so there would be no additional costs.
“I can understand why operators perceive the change as a threat,” concluded Cllr Lewis. “But declining patronage and passengers saying they have nowhere to voice any dissatisfaction with services, they cannot want to continue with the current framework which is failing.”