With climate change and sustainability in the public eye, amid strikes across the country and cities declaring climate emergency, First Bus’ decision to increase the bus ticket fares last October was not welcomed by inhabitants and leaders of Leeds. Now, Leeds North West Labour politicians have started a campaign in order to make this public service accessible for everyone, regardless of income.
From October 21st, tickets – single, day and week included – saw a price increase across the city of Leeds. Despite it being a marginal increase of around 10p for singles, it has had a great impact on people who rely on First Bus, the only company offering regular public transport services across the city, for their daily commuting.
Using public transport is a great way to reduce our personal carbon footprint. Taking into account the city’s commitment to the environment, this increase in the fares is counterproductive for public policies. Discouraging the use of public transport due to ticket prices can have a direct impact in public health due to air pollution and safety.
Most university students live in the Hyde Park and Headingley area, which is fairly isolated from the city centre. Public transport is the fastest, safest and most comfortable way to reach the city, especially when it is dark.
This increase in bus fares has had a direct impact on the students, which can be put off using this service due to its prices. The same thing can be said for other sectors of Leeds’ population.
Councillor James Gibson, Labour member for Weetwood Ward, is one of the organisers of the the campaigns. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, he expressed that “Ordinary people have already had a huge squeeze on the money they’re taking home every month yet the bus fare increase is another price hike which makes it tougher for ordinary lower and middle income families”.
He continued that the price increase is “making public transport out of reach which is bad for the environment, air pollution and congestion in the city.”
As a response, First Bus has tried to defend their decision, arguing that their new fares are already a good value for an excellent service. Their goal is to encourage people to buy their tickets in advance through their “mTicket” app. However, this has had a negative impact on those who want to pay by cash or are not interested in investing in a more expensive bus pass.
Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel is one of the most relevant figures involved in the ‘Fair Fares’ campaign. Councillor Neil Walshaw, member for Headingley and Hyde Park, is also an active member of the organisation.
There has already been a public meeting between the company and the campaign’s organisers. A second one is meant to be arranged in the next few days, with hopes that some solution for this problem can be found.