West Yorkshire operators join forces for EP+ proposals

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Operators in West Yorkshire have joined together to offer an alternative proposal to try to head of the threat from bus franchising in the region. JONATHAN WELCH

West Yorkshire’s bus operators have joined forces in a move they say will ‘drive change as fast as possible’ to offer an alternative way forwards at a time when the region is looking increasingly likely to follow the likes of Manchester and introduce bus franchising. The partners say that the Enhanced Partnership Plus plan from First, Arriva, Transdev, smaller local operators under the Confederation of Passenger Transport, and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority would give the Authority a greater say in the provision of services with less risk to the local authority and more value for taxpayers.

The plan was launched under the ‘Best for West Yorkshire’ umbrella, which describes itself as a campaign for the best bus services in the region, and led by West Yorkshire’s bus operators which collectively maintain and operate around 1,800 buses from 29 depots, enabling over 1.7 million bus journeys per week.

“We recognise and agree that bus reform is needed and have a dynamic new plan we are confident meets the ambitions of the Mayor, Tracy Brabin,” the partners say. “A vibrant bus network is critical to the economic and environmental future of our region. To help Mayor Brabin and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) deliver this, operators have developed a unique approach. This builds on the existing partnership with colleagues at WYCA, which will harness the strengths of both the public and private sectors for the benefit of the travelling public.

“We believe EP+ is the best bus reform option that aligns with the mayor’s pledge. It delivers improvements immediately,

without transferring financial risk from operators to local authorities, and without the burden on the public purse.”

Other operators backing the plan include Connexions Buses, Globe, Ross Travel, Squarepeg Buses, Stagecoach Yorkshire, Station Coaches, Waterson’s, Dales, Bowland CIC, E Stotts & Sons and TLC Travel.

The partners say that the EP+ will address the challenges facing the current bus system and deliver many benefits for customers, including simpler fares, multi-operator ticketing, greener buses, more reliable services and better customer service, and do so more quickly than franchising, whilst still delivering a greater degree of public control and at less risk to the Combined Authority.

The proposal details five key interventions that the EP+ will deliver, namely more re-investment in bus services to give better connectivity and reliability whilst reducing reliance on public funding; simpler fares and integrated ticketing to offer passengers best value via capped fares and multi-operator ticket options; enabling bus priority for faster, more reliable journeys; a single, unified West Yorkshire bus brand promoting better service quality and standards, and; a greener network, with a 100% zero-emission bus fleet by 2036 by maximising partnership funding opportunities.
A formal consultation was published by the Combined Authority on 10 October.