At the beginning of the pandemic, Sheffield secured £11 million of Government funding to keep bus and light rail services operating. This financial support is about to end, and with public transport usage remaining well below pre-coronavirus levels, I’ve joined with other Labour MPs in Sheffield to call on the Government to commit to maintaining bus and light rail services in the city.
See our letter below.
We are writing with regard to the need to extend the Government’s financial support for bus and light rail services in the Sheffield area. The funding so far has been most welcome and necessary in order to enable bus operators and also Stagecoach, the light rail operators, to continue maintaining services which have been gradually expanded as more people are returning to work.
Recently Clive Betts led a commission on behalf of the Sheffield City Region Mayor, Dan Jarvis, to look at bus services. What was concluded was that buses have a vital role to play in terms of helping to deal with congestion, pollution and climate change. We need to get more people on the buses and we need the buses to become greener and cleaner.
It is pretty obvious that this is the way forward but it will also be a way forward that demands additional resources both from Government and from the City Region’s devolved budget. We will, however, not get to the point when we can start looking at an improved public transport offering in the future unless we maintain the services in the very difficult situation of the next few months.
While the message has been to try and avoid public transport in the last few weeks, as infection rates drop in the short term and the welcome requirement to wear masks has been introduced, the likelihood is that more people will return to using buses as a matter of choice. There are many who will simply need to use their buses to carry out essential jobs. I am thinking of people in the Health Service, care workers, those in shops and many others. Without the funding that we now want renewing and hopefully improving after August 4th, those people are going to be completely unable to carry on performing their important roles.
Alongside buses, we recognised in our Review that we need an integrated approach to public transport. The Supertram network in Sheffield is incredibly well regarded and the challenge in the future is to expand it rather than see it diminish as a result of Covid. The last thing we want if we are attracting people back to public transport, is to have the system closed down with all the substantial costs of then having to re-open it. That cannot be a good way forward.
On top of the challenges of returning to work there are then, of course, schools opening more fully from September. That is something that we will need to ensure will happen but it can only happen completely if bus services are available to transport children either on specially procured routes or on the mainstream service.
We hope that we get a positive response to this email. It is extremely important and in terms of looking out for the least well off in our society, it is by and large people who are suffering financially because of Covid who are in the category of people who would most suffer if buses and trams were not able to run.
Clive Betts MP
Olivia Blake MP
Paul Blomfield MP
Gill Furniss MP
Louise Haigh MP