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Accessibility & affordability

Source: PSE June/July 15

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s interim director general, David Young, discusses how the city is attempting to transform public transport access and affordability to deliver economic growth to the region.

Following last year’s £320m Growth Deal and Sheffield devolution agreement, the future of transport delivery in the steel city is changing – despite facing severe austerity. 

A recent Sheffield City Region (SCR) meeting heard that significant progress has been made in 17 of the 26 policy areas in the region’s transport strategy (2011 to 2026). The rail and highways objectives focus on boosting the economy, social inclusion and reducing emissions. 

David Young, who stepped up to become interim director general of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) in April, said: “The work is going very well and a number of key projects have been delivered, a good number are in planning and it builds on the Bus Partnership which has seen significant patronage growth, particularly with adult fare paying passengers. For instance, Rotherham (6%) and Sheffield (9%) have seen significant growth. 

“On top of this, all the projects supporting rail have gone very well. For instance, the Dore and Totley station park and ride was full within a matter of weeks. We have also seen huge growth at Rotherham Central station, which has dramatically outstripped the growth in other stations in South Yorkshire on the back of the investment we made. It has just gone from strength to strength because it was a complete rebuild of that station and a new gateway to the town centre.” 

It was announced recently that the future of transport delivery in SCR will be shaped via a new ‘Strategic Hub and Customer Strategy’ under proposals endorsed by the SCR Combined Authority. 

The Strategic Hub will be responsible for the co-ordination, development and delivery of SCR’s transport strategy and policy functions, currently delivered by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), and will sit within the Sheffield City Region Executive Team, led by Ben Still.

Young, said: “Plans for the Strategic Hub necessitate a new focus for SYPTE. It will enable SYPTE and the SCR Executive Team to capitalise on our respective strengths, assets and expertise to empower and improve the local transport and customer offer to boost economic growth. 

“We will lead public transport delivery in South Yorkshire and be responsible for making the transport plans and strategies of the City Region a reality. And we will continue to be an organisation dedicated to putting our customers first, to offer the best possible experience when using local public transport services.” 

Young added that the city’s projects aren’t just about making public transport better but making it more accessible and affordable despite austere times. However, he admitted that this is difficult, “but we are using our devolution deal and bus partnership” as a strong platform to deliver change.

SYPTE has pushed forward two initiatives to make travel cheaper. The child ticket – which has been a flat fare “for generations” – is currently 70p, having been put up by 10p from time to time. That adds up to “a big impact on people with young families,” Young acknowledged. So SYPTE persuaded operators to introduce child day (£2.50) and child weekly (£6.50) all-operator tickets. Cheaper versions, restricted to one operator, are also available. 

“It gives younger people greater independence and more affordable freedom of choice in where they get educated,” Young said. 

“The next area where we are making a difference is when you leave education you go from the very cheap fare to the full-price adult fare overnight. 

“Here, however, we have now introduced and persuaded the TravelMaster panel – a collection of the operators and myself, who deliver the multi-modal product – to introduce the TravelMaster 18, 20, 25 range. “Very simply, it is a stepped charge.”

It is hoped that instead of making young people pay the full price initially at the start of their careers, the incremental price approach will help keep them as public transport users. 

These products have been launched at the operators’ risk but SYPTE is using its influence to deliver the products. “Overall, it has been a SYPTE project but not a SYPTE delivered project. And this is an example of how, at times, you can deliver better things for customers without having to deliver it personally,” said Young. 

He said the city council’s Streets Ahead programme, which includes road and pavement resurfacing work, will bring the city’s highway up to a good standard, making it easier for people to travel on and be safer. 

“It is all about helping people get out and about independently,” said Young, who also noted that while the tram rail replacement programme has hit passenger numbers, the end product will be “majorly beneficial” to the city’s growth. 

Back in the March/April edition, PSE interviewed Young about plans to deliver £7.6m savings in 2015-16. He told us that now the Transport Information Centres at the Sheffield, Meadowhall, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham interchanges have closed, smart ticketing has been moved forward, and, as the beginning of June, 95% of transactions have moved to the new channels with some minor technical issues ‘de-bugged’. 

“I’m pleased with how it has gone,” he said. “There are plenty of alternative and acceptable options both for those with or without the internet. But, ultimately, it is about modernising and transforming the service.”

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