The Coalition government has announced the third big slice of funding for York’s ailing transport system in less than a year. Hard on the heels of a £20 million grant for 2 new park and ride sites, plus around £4 million for a sustainable transport initiative, the government has agreed to put £2.9 million into improving public transport systems. These are huge sums of money at a time when the economy is still weak and the Council needs to ensure that the investment is prudently managed and that residents are fully consulted about the proposed use of the funds.
The move means that York can now expect to get the cashless “smartcard” payment system that was trialled in South Yorkshire 3 years ago. We have no doubt that – everything else being equal – the convenience of this system would boost bus usage in the City.
What is markedly less convincing is the Councils intention to borrow £1.6 million which it will spend smartening up City Centre bus stops. The taxpayer simply can’t afford this kind of expenditure at a time when key public services are being cut. The 56% reduction in highways maintenance, which will be bad news for pedestrians and cyclists, has still not been adequately justified by the Council leadership.
Residents are also angry about the way that road works on Blossom Street have increased some bus journey times by as much as 1 hour. As usual the Council – and particularly the lethargic Labour Councillors representing affected wards – failed to manage this contract effectively and with minimal disruption.
News that the 20 conductors – who were used on the number 4 bus service – have now been sacked by First means that this service will be subject to further delays as drivers struggle to issue tickets on what is the busiest route on the York bus network. Services should have been left as they were until the smartcard had been introduced and a modern, low emission, bus procured for use on the route.