WYorks operators sign pledge

First West Yorkshire 39236 (BP11 JWW), a Wright Eclipse Gemini 2-bodied Volvo B5LH hybrid. The company is considering switching to biogas for services in the clean air zone planned for 2020.

West Yorkshire’s main operators have signed up to an ambitious partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to improve services and encourage more people to use the bus.

The Bus18 initiative consists of pledges, deliverable commitments and visions to change and improve services over the next 20 months. The three main operators — First, Arriva and Transdev — have also made an immediate commitment to issue a free travel voucher for any customers not happy with their bus journey. Customers can call a taxi and claim the cost back if their last bus does not arrive within 20min of its scheduled time.

The pledges include making buses easy to use, reducing emissions and improving customer satisfaction and passenger experience. They promise to develop a simpler network, with fewer changes, more reliable services, smarter information and more ways to pay in advance.

Arriva’s area managing director, John Croxford, has already committed his company to improve network stability by making only one major service change in 12 months. Operators and councils will conduct partnership investigations on five key county corridors to improve punctuality and reliability.

First West Yorkshire MD Paul Matthews says the three companies intend to spend £75million over the next three years on around 300 new buses, which will reduce the most harmful exhaust emissions by between 95 and 99%. First is considering biogas as an option for Leeds, but Matthews says the group is still evaluating the relative costs and benefits of biogas and Euro6 diesel in readiness for a clean air zone being established in 2020.

The operators have also signed up to the Eco stars scheme, where both individual vehicles and the company as a whole are evaluated and rated on the types of vehicles operated, and their overall commitment to reducing fuel consumption and harmful emissions. Each vehicle may display its individual star rating.

Transdev marketing and communications director Ben Mansfield says that carrying 175million passengers per year offers 175million opportunities for bus travel to impress. As examples, he says all three companies have increasing numbers of buses equipped with WiFi and individual charging points, and Transdev is also incorporating these features into refurbished vehicles. WYCA’s Metro has extended young people’s fares from age 16 to 18, and companies will engage with young people to understand what would make buses more useful to them.

Combined authority transport chair Keith Wakefield says that while most journeys run smoothly, a three-month Your Travel, Your Say consultation last year and the recent Big Transport Consultation in Leeds highlighted concerns over punctuality, reliability, levels of customer care, value-for-money and ticketing.

‘I am pleased to see commitments to overcome these issues, combating the costs of congestion on our local economy and improving local air quality being made through Bus 18,’ he adds.

■ Transdev says its half-hourly Cityzap fast commuter and shoppers’ service between York and Leeds carried 250,000 passengers in its first year to 27 March. In December, 38% of passengers surveyed said they had switched from a car or train.