WEST Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) is set to debate its stance on the region's transport after calls from senior councillors to bring bus services back into public hands.

The meeting will decide the authority's position on the potential sale of First Bus West Yorkshire and Arriva's West Yorkshire operations.

They are considering the effects of a move to a franchised bus system like in London and away from privatised companies.

Campaigners across the district are urging the combined authority to take on duties at both companies' West Yorkshire wings - to "run them for the benefit of everyone in West Yorkshire, not for shareholders".

The petition, started by Andrew Dunlop, also states the move would ensure that First Bus is not "broken up into smaller, fragmented operations."

The campaign reads: "We are asking WYCA to buy First Bus and Arriva West Yorkshire to run them for the benefit of everyone in West Yorkshire, not for shareholders.

"Also, to ensure that First Bus is not broken up into smaller fragmented operations.

"And to commit to do everything they can to move to a region wide franchised system as soon as possible.

"Many councils have declared Climate Emergencies and the only way we are going to tackle emissions from transport is to have an efficient, affordable, reliable public."

Councillor Nazam Azam (Lab, City) said the prospect of public ownership makes him feel "positive", expressing how ticket prices continue to rise for unchanged services.

Cllr Azam said: "In terms of bringing bus services back into public ownerships I think it's a brilliant idea. I'm somebody who is all in favour.

"We hear about constant price hikes however the service is not there and that is down to the fact that these companies are wanting to make a profit.

"It's something that is a real positive if we can make it happen.

"It would improve the public services but the overriding aim of reducing our footprint."

While councillor Vick Jenkins, who shared the petition on her Facebook page, wrote: "This could really make a difference to some of the bus services.

"A lot more signatures are needed on this petition. We need public transport that works for people and not for profit."

Manchester, an authority with an elected mayor, is currently looking into a franchising model for its bus services – effectively bringing them back into public control.

But, at a full Leeds City Council meeting in July, the authority’s leader, councillor Judith Blake, suggested that West Yorkshire - currently without a devolution deal - would not necessarily need an elected mayor to do the same.

At the time, as she referred to the possibility of bringing the bus services back into public ownership, Cllr Blake said: “The fact that First and Arriva are getting to the point where they are looking to offload their bus operations, perhaps that is an opportunity for us and I think we really need to look at how we can do it.

“Some time ago, [transport secretary] Chris Grayling did say to us that even though we didn’t have a mayoral model, he would be open to a robust proposal around taking ownership of bus operation."

The debate has been welcomed by We Own It advocate, Pascale Robinson from Better Buses for Greater Manchester.

The transport expert compared buses in West Yorkshire to the "wild west" and backed calls for public ownership.

Greater Manchester is also consulting on handing control of the region’s bus network with other forms of transport, route planning and fare setting to mayor Andy Burnham and the county's leaders.

Mr Robinson said: "We're incredibly happy to hear that more local authorities are considering taking control of their local bus services to run them for passengers and staff instead of money being leaked out of the system to shareholders. Buying the operations of First and Arriva will make sure passengers are not let down at the company's whim, and it will mean a better, more joined up service in the long run.

"However, the opportunity presented by Arriva and First won't fix the wild west of West Yorkshire's buses, with multiple other companies competing to run services. It won't stop private companies running whatever routes they choose and charging whatever they like West Yorkshire. 

"We need to bring our buses into public control, so the local authority can decide who runs which buses, integrate all services and get the best bus journey for passengers. "