John calls for more powers to improve local buses

Local MP John Healey has backed calls for greater local control over buses because the current service in South Yorkshire is “not good enough.”

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, he said Labour’s plan to give cities and regions London-style powers to make bus services cheaper, more frequent and more reliable was “exactly what we need in South Yorkshire.”

The Wentworth & Dearne MP added: “Buses matter a great deal in areas such as ours. They are the main form of public transport in Rotherham.

“Many people rely on buses – to get to work, to college, to hospitals, to shops and to see family and friends. Many older and disabled people are totally dependent on buses to get out and about to avoid isolation.

“It is, of course, the poorest who require and need bus services most.”

Recently he’s been involved in several campaigns to keep services where bus companies planned to scrap or change routes because they weren’t profitable.

He said the Government have cut bus funding by 17 per cent in the last three years and 1,300 routes have gone as a result. Funding for bus services in 2012/13 (latest available figures) was £810m – but £500m of that goes to London.

Mr Healey told Parliament that over the last few months he had met Paul Lynch, regional director of Stagecoach, who had agreed to review some of the decisions taken on route changes and stoppages. The 222 in Wath was altered to replace some of the route lost when the 229 changed, and the 108/109 in Rawmarsh reverted back to its original route.

He said he was currently fighting for the number 3 between Ravenfield and Wickersley to be brought back. He has had a meeting with Ben Gilligan, regional director of FirstGroup, who promised to consider restoring the route.

Mr Healey played a big part in introducing free bus travel for pensioners, in 2006-7 when he was Labour’s Treasury minister, which was worth £37m to South Yorkshire pensioners last year.