RIVAL bus firms are to co-operate over tickets and timetables on one of the busiest routes in Sheffield – with the prospect of the breakthrough agreement eventually being extended across the city.
For the first time, passengers will be able to use the same ticket on buses run by either First or Stagecoach and times will be changed so that buses do not arrive in bunches, but at regular intervals.
Changes are being made from Sunday, July 24 on routes between Fulwood, the city centre and Halfway.
“This is the first time we are getting collaboration of this scale,” said David Young, director of customer experience at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
He added: “We are trying to demonstrate that by working together we can grow the market, that it is counter-productive to fight each other.”
SYPTE director general David Brown said: “We know that what passengers want is a bus network that is simple and stable and which offers a reliable and punctual service. This unique new agreement should help to give us that.”
Frustration over the head-to-head strategies of the bus firms has led SYPTE and the council to threaten them with Bus Quality Contracts, under which SYPTE would take control of routes, timetables and fares and invite private firms to bid to run them.
But it could take up to two years to enforce the contracts, with the likelihood of a challenge in the courts from either of the current operators.
“The new partnership will provide 95% of the benefits of quality contracts and the first phase is being implemented immediately with the intention of a roll-out across the city and south Rotherham “as rapidly as we can”, said Mr Young.
The new arrangement, called Optio Orange, will affect services 42, 44, 49, 50/50A, 53/53A, 120 and 123.
Passengers can use daily and weekly tickets from First and Stagecoach services on the other firm’s buses. No price rises are planned.
A maximum single fare will be £1.40, a day ticket £3 and a weekly ticket £9.
Bus route changes will see the First 40 (Fulwood-city) replaced by First 120 (Fulwood -city-Crystal Peaks) Monday to Saturday during the day, and First 41 (Halfway-city) replaced by Stagecoach 120 (Halfway-city-Royal Hallamshire Hospital) Monday to Saturday during the day.
Both operators will operate Fulwood-city-Halfway during the evenings and on Sundays.
However, residents of the Westminster estate in Lodge Moor have failed in their attempts to halt changes that they say will inconvenience them – the loss of a service on Hallam Grange Road and Crimicar Lane.
Despite protests, they face having to use service 51 from Redmires Road or service 120 from Barncliffe Road. SYPTE says both services operate to the city and changes can be made for the hospitals at Broomhill.