Calderdale should work with partner councils to not only maintain bus services and explore how they might be subject to more public control, councillors agreed.
Coun Daniel Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said bus services were vitally important to councillors’ constituents, providing access to work and leisure, but soon to be subjected to increasing amounts of pressure.
For example, Government Ministers were always saying there were lots of jobs out there, but in situations loss of, say, an early bus service, removed a means of travel to get there, he told the full meeting of Calderdale Council this week.
“This is important – there is a serious problem with the situation as it stands,” he said.
He proposed the council should support working with West Yorkshire Combined Authority partners and the West Yorkshire Transport Committee to maintain services and see if more control over them could be gained.
The motion before councillors said to keep a viable network and make fares more affordable, around £75 million was spent each year by West Yorkshire local authorities to subsidise bus routes and fund free travel for older and disabled people and half-price travel for under 19s.
But no area of public funding was exempt from austerity and the WYCA was looking at ways to reduce subsidy spend while maintaining the network, said Coun Sutherland.
The largest bus company in West Yorkshire, First, had been put up for sale and WYCA was exploring opportunities and threats this might create, he added.
Coun Silvia Dacre (Lab, Todmorden) said services were heavily used particularly by the old, the young and the less well off and anyone without a car relied on them.
Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said the council could just do this – councils in Manchester and Leeds had a free bus, for example.
Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) said London showed how a centrally controlled transport network worked well and that sort of integrated system was what she wanted to see in Calderdale.
Coun Victoria Porritt (Lab, Elland) told councillors she had lived there for ten years and “it works – we need something for West Yorkshire.”
Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said bus companies were all fighting for the busier routes. “It’s a commercial scheme, the public service has gone,” he said.