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Options considered to improve bus services
A radical overhaul of local bus services could cost West Yorkshire up to £5 million in lost funding.
The West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (ITA), through its operating arm Metro, wants to create a more joined-up bus network with better services and simpler ticketing. It is considering two options and has pledged to make a decision by the end of the year.
The first option is a voluntary partnership with local operators, who would agree to work closer together to make public transport easier and cheaper to use.
The second, more radical, option is to create a London-style Quality Bus Contracts scheme, in which the transport authority would control all bus routes and set all fares from 2015, with the operators bidding for contracts. But it has emerged that if the authority chooses this second option, it could lose out on up to £5 million of Government cash.
Recently-announced proposals by Transport Minister Norman Baker mean any area introducing Quality Bus Contracts could be prevented from bidding for a pot of money called the Better Bus Area Fund.
The fund, worth £50 million nationally, is being distributed to authorities which opt for partnerships with operators instead.
Metro staff have now been asked to find out whether the benefits of Quality Bus Contracts would outweigh the loss of this money.
But authority chairman, Councillor James Lewis, said a decision had to be made soon.
He said: “While we appreciate the importance of exploring these options fully, my ITA Executive Board colleagues and I also think that the people of West Yorkshire deserve to know what their bus services are going to look like.
“We need the information, including the outcome of the Government’s consultation on Better Bus Areas, presented to us so we can make the decision we think best represents passengers’ interests.”
Bus companies are opposed to the Quality Bus Contracts idea, which would be the first such scheme outside the capital.
The Bus Operators of West Yorkshire, which represents companies such as Arriva, First and Stagecoach, hopes to set up a partnership instead.