WEST Yorkshire’s three biggest bus companies have united with transport chiefs to try to tempt more people on to the buses.

The improvement drive will now see passengers getting a free taxi if the last bus of the night fails to turn up.

And anyone who complains about their journey will get a free travel voucher.

Bus firms First, Arriva and Transdev have teamed up with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on the improvement plan, dubbed Bus 18 because it aims to make changes by the end of 2018.

The plan was unveiled in Bradford’s City Hall yesterday.

It follows feedback from passengers which didn’t “pull any punches”, according to West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport director Dave Pearson.

He told the meeting: “If it was a school report, we would say we could do better.”

West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport chairman Councillor Keith Wakefield said the recent public consultations with bus users “showed that people had a number of concerns about local buses, including their punctuality and reliability, levels of customer care, changes to routes and timetables, value-for-money and ticketing”.

He said: “I am pleased to see commitments to overcome these issues, combating the costs of congestion on our local economy and improving local air quality being made through Bus 18.”

The plan will also see congestion-busting improvements to five of West Yorkshire’s busiest routes, including Toller Lane in Bradford and the A65 from Menston to Leeds.

And a new star rating will see each bus marked out of five, depending on how eco-friendly it is.

The voluntary Eco Stars system also scores overall fleets. So far, the fleets of First and Arriva both have four stars while Transdev has three.

Jim Chappell, of Eco Stars, said: “They’re good ratings for somebody joining the scheme. I would say they’re above average for bus companies joining Eco Stars.”

And a combined £75m investment in 300 new buses by 2020 should see the ratings go up.

Paul Matthews, managing director of First West Yorkshire, said local bus companies had worked together before, but this new project alongside local councils and the Combined Authority was on another scale.

He said: “It’s a very significant step, in terms of working together.”

As of yesterday, any passengers who are not happy with their bus journey can claim a free travel voucher from either First, Arriva or Transdev. They should contact the appropriate operator, which will arrange for a free journey voucher to be sent out, for use on a future date.

And if their last bus doesn’t arrive within 20 minutes of the scheduled time, customers can call a taxi, save the receipt and claim the cost back from either First, Arriva or Transdev.