TRANSPORT chiefs are to take the unusual move of asking shops and supermarkets to contribute to the cost of running bus services – or risk losing customers if they are axed.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) is writing to major out-of-town retail sites and supermarkets to ask for financial contributions to ‘tendered’ bus services, which are paid for out of the public purse.
It comes amid continuing pressure to cut budgets as Government funding to councils continues to be scaled back. Bosses at SYPTE say they have made cuts right across the organisation, but that further cuts could mean that some tendered bus services are unaffordable.
Around 16% of all bus miles across in South Yorkshire are paid for by SYPTE, mostly at times and to places where bus firms won’t run because they don’t make a profit. Worst hit would be likely to be rural and evening services to essential services like shops.
In a bid to limit the potential impact that further budget cuts could have SYPTE is appealing to retailers to help support the services which carry their customers and employees. If one supermarket chooses not to help support the bus then this may mean services are diverted to a competitor who will meet the costs.
David Young, SYPTE Deputy Interim Director General, said: “These are hard times and they call for creative measures. We have made big cuts to our budgets over the past few years and have lost significant numbers of staff.
“But whilst we have tried to limit the effect on public transport users we have reached a point where further cuts are likely to hit services. The last thing we want to do is cut bus services and so we are asking shops and supermarkets in some areas to dig deep and support the services which run to their shops and help keep their tills ringing.”
Councillor Mick Jameson, Chairman of South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, added: “We hope retailers rise to the challenge and contribute to the funding of local bus services, recognising that for years we have helped customers get to their stores.”
Last year alone SYPTE made more than £6.2 million worth of budget cuts and lost 16% of its workforce, half of which were compulsory redundancies.
Mr Young added that with further budget cuts likely withdrawals of some bus services would probably start to take place within the next few months.
Transport bosses stress that no decisions have been taken on cuts to any services, but that discussions might have to start soon on which could be targeted.