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To: West Yorkshire Combined Authority

West Yorkshire Combined Authority buy FirstBus and Arriva

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority have agreed to proceed with investigating the options available to them in the sale of FirstBus. They made reference to the petition in their decision meeting and accepted the initial petition signatures. Future decisions will be required by the Combined Authority on this so further public action may be needed once the options open to them become clearer.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority buy FirstBus and Arriva

On Thursday the 10th of October the West Yorkshire Combined Authority are meeting to decide what they should do about the likely sale of FirstBus West Yorkshire and Arriva's West Yorkshire operations. [1]

They are considering how this might effect plans to move to a franchised bus system like that of London and away from the deregulated privatised system the rest of the country has to put up with.

We are asking WYCA to buy FirstBus and Arriva West Yorkshire to run them for the benefit of everyone in West Yorkshire not for shareholders. Also to ensure that FirstBus 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 transport system.

Why is this important?

Up until the 1980s buses in England were mainly run by local councils and transport authorities. Then deregulation meant that buses had to be sold off to private companies.

In London Transport for London were allowed to move to a franchised system where routes, fares and standards for vehicles were set and private companies bid to run each route. Users need not care who runs their bus as their tickets will work on any bus but can expect a constant experience.
However in the rest of England we have a patchwork of private operators. They get to decide what routes to run and their frequency. They set the prices and usually won't accept tickets from other operators.
While in London Bus usage has gone up in the rest of the country it has declined.

We want West Yorkshire Combined Authority to take control of our buses for the benefit of everyone in West Yorkshire. Creating a proper network of reliable buses built around the needs of the region. More profitable routes can be used to cross fund less profitable but vital routes. Currently bus companies can make profits from busy routes and then get additional public money to run the vital services subsidised by councils.

There is now legislation to let this happen, the Bus Services Act 2017 [5] finally allows Combined Authorities to move to a franchised system like London's. Only last week Greater Manchester CA announced their plans to proceed with these new powers [6]. WYCA can't currently do this as we have no elected mayor because of a dispute with central government around how devolution should work in Yorkshire. Once this is sorted out we want WYCA (or any Yorkshire-wide Authority that replaces it) to move to a franchised system as soon as possible.

However before then there is an opportunity. FirstBus and Arriva's parent companies are about to put their West Yorkshire operations up for sale. Together they represent more than 80% of bus services in West Yorkshire [4].
We are calling on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to take action to buy these operations. This will make it much easier to move to franchising in the future but will allow some of the benefits of this to be realised now. There will be a cost to this now but this money should be recouped when the buses are sold to companies biding for the franchises in the future.

We are also calling for action to be taken to prevent FirstBus splitting up their operations to make them more attractive to potential buyers. This has happened in Greater Manchester and has resulted in route between areas being cut back and less profitable routes cut. This has had an immediate impact on people who rely on these services but also could make it harder for GM to implement its franchising plans. The current system of multiple operators is fragmented enough.

Please share this petition if you care about our bus services; if you are a passenger, a potential passenger or see the congestion-reduction, environmental and social benefits of more people using them.

References and further reading:
1 - https://www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/all-news-and-blogs/west-yorkshire-combined-authority-to-consider-role-in-sale-of-bus-services/
2 - https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/bus-services-could-be-brought-back-under-public-control-combined-authority-claims-1-9866367
3 - https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/bus-privatisation-attacked-as-transport-chief-hints-at-changes-for-first-and-arriva-bus-networks-1-9851619
4 - https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/local-news/first-bus-yorkshire-sale-could-17027301
5 - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/558349/the-bus-services-bill-an-overview.pdf
6 - https://tfgm.com/future-travel/bus-reform

Image credits:
Licensed under Creative Commons from Stefan Baguette.
For license and image information see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Volvo_B7TL_First_West_Yorkshire.jpg

West Yorkshire

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL

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Reasons for signing

  • Exactly what public transport needs
  • We need this, everyone needs this!
  • I long for the day when the bus services are exactly that, services. More often than not the bus companies make you feel as if you are there to serve them, not the other way around.

Updates

2019-10-14 14:05:49 +0100

Petition is successful with 779 signatures

2019-10-13 22:29:43 +0100

I will be sending the final signatures to the WYCA tomorrow.

2019-10-13 22:28:54 +0100

Thank you everyone who signed and shared. I have now closed the petition.

I never thought the petition would have been successful when I set it up last Saturday.

We have been successful in showing that there is public support for the WYCA taking action on the sale of FirstBus and this was reflected in the debate that lead to the decision in their meeting.
I urge you to follow what happens when the WYCA get their legal advice back on what options are open to them. We may need to make our voices heard again when these further decisions are needed.

2019-10-11 09:53:32 +0100

I am going to keep the petition open for new signatures until Saturday night.
I will then close it and inform you and the WYCA of the final number.
So there is still time to share for others to sign.

2019-10-11 09:51:55 +0100

I have changed the petition image to me handing over the initial signatures to Dave Pearson, Director of Transport Services at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Our petition was mentioned a number of times including the chair (Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe) introducing it by saying it was nice to have a petition supporting action by the WYCA rather than against. Then Cllr Judith Blake made reference to it again while introducing the agenda item.

Watch here https://westyorks-ca.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/437564# (select 'Future Bus Options').

I am pleased to say that the elected members of the WYCA agreed to the proposal and the WYCA will now proceed with legal advice on the options open to them.

2019-10-09 21:19:27 +0100

I will be attending the WYCA meeting tomorrow after I have handed over your signatures.
The meeting agenda is at https://westyorkshire.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=835 and the Future of Buses is agenda item 11. You can watch it on their website.

2019-10-09 10:54:59 +0100

500 signatures reached

2019-10-09 09:51:59 +0100

Further Update on update from 2 days ago:
Apparently the WYCA are optimistic that despite the Bus Services Act 2017 saying that franchising is only open to CAs with an elected mayor that an exception might be made if they come up with a credible proposal to put to the Department of Transport. This appears to be based on comments by Chris Grayling when he was Secretary of State for Transport, see [8].

8 - https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest/transport-secretary-will-not-block-bus-franchising-in-leeds-if-it-benefits-passengers-1-8864514

2019-10-09 09:45:09 +0100

488 signatures and rising!
And we've made Bradford's Telegraph & Argus newspaper https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/17954663.west-yorkshire-combined-authority-discuss-buying-first-bus-arriva/

2019-10-08 08:35:18 +0100

280 signatures in 58 hours! Thank you and keep sharing.

Here is a link to the agenda item where the West Yorkshire Combined Authority decide on looking at how they can participate in the sale of FirstBus https://westyorkshire.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s13585/Item%2011%20-%20Future%20Bus%20Options.pdf

2019-10-07 13:20:03 +0100

Over 100 signatures in less than 48 hours! Thanks everyone who has signed so far. Please consider sharing if you haven’t already, it would be good to get the number higher before Thursday’s WYCA meeting.

2019-10-07 13:19:50 +0100

I’ve had it pointed out to me that full ownership may not be possible under the Bus Services Act 2017 [7]. This is despite some Local Authorities already owning their bus companies (e.g. Reading) prior to the act and in these areas the number of users are some of the highest in the country. I knew about this restriction but had thought that these rules only applied to authorities at the point they implemented Franchising rather than being a blanket ban from now on.

Despite this I still think its worthwhile showing there is support for full ownership. Public support could help WYCA to make the case to government that these rules are holding them back. It could also encourage them to do all they can under the current rules. Given that a general election will be happening at some point soon, now is a good time to show this support and get parties to make commitments.

7 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/21/section/22

2019-10-07 12:58:52 +0100

100 signatures reached

2019-10-07 09:11:57 +0100

50 signatures reached

2019-10-06 22:40:56 +0100

25 signatures reached

2019-10-06 10:26:55 +0100

10 signatures reached