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West Yorkshire Mayor takes buses back under public control

14 March 2024

The Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin has decided to take control of the buses in the biggest shake up to public transport in the region for decades.

In a landmark move, the Mayor decided to bring buses under local control - through a process known as franchising - as recommended by the Combined Authority at its meeting in Leeds today. 

Routes, frequencies, fares and overall standards for buses in the region will be set by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority – not private operators, who will instead be contracted to run services on the Combined Authority’s behalf. 

Buses are the most widely used form of public transport in West Yorkshire and provide a crucial public service, connecting communities and enabling people to get to work, school and meet family and friends.

But the current deregulated system has seen a decline in patronage over many years and the increasing use of public funding used to support services.  

Despite the action the Combined Authority has taken through its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), bus services in the region remain too infrequent and unreliable to meet passengers’ needs, with West Yorkshire ranking bottom for customer satisfaction according to a survey released by Transport Focus yesterday.

A franchised model will allow the Mayor and Combined Authority to better deliver on ambitions for a greener, joined-up and easier to use transport network as part of a better-connected West Yorkshire. 

The Mayor’s decision follows a three month consultation which revealed that nearly three-quarters of the people and organisations which responded supported franchising. 

 Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said:

“I’m delighted to announce that we are taking back control of our buses in West Yorkshire, empowering the public to hold me to account for better services.  

 “For too long, buses have been run in the interests of private companies, not passengers. Franchising will help us build a better-connected bus network that works for all, not just company shareholders.    

“But we know that change will not happen overnight - the hard work we’ve been doing to improve the bus network continues while we work at pace to bring this new way of running the buses to our 2.4 million residents.” 

To ensure a smooth transition, franchising will be introduced in phases, with the first franchised buses up and running in parts of Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield from March 2027. 

In the meantime, the Combined Authority will continue with its BSIP, which has seen the introduction of the £2 Mayor’s Fares, increased frequencies on key routes, investment in bus stations and shelters and new bus services launching across West Yorkshire. 

A new package of bus improvements for services across the region is also set to be announced in May.