Election 2021: West Yorkshire mayor candidates on transport

Image caption,
Elinor Hewitt says the difficulty of getting around Leeds by bus is "ridiculous"

On 6 May voters in West Yorkshire will elect their first mayor. As well as having powers over policing, adult education and housing, the successful candidate will also take control of transport. The BBC asked voters about their experiences, and put their concerns to the candidates.

NHS worker Elinor Hewitt, 35, says the bus system in Leeds needs "massive changes".

Ms Hewitt, her husband and their children use the bus from their home in Seacroft to St James' Hospital every day.

"We have to be really regimented in making sure we are up and out of the house an hour before we need to be at school and work, for a two-and-a-half mile journey, in case the bus we want doesn't turn up," she says.

"When you are spending half your time waiting around at bus stops in all weathers for a bus that might not come it's just not pleasant at all.

"You can't get anywhere in Leeds easily and for such a big city it just seems ridiculous."

First Bus Leeds apologised to Ms Hewitt for any bad experiences and said it took steps to inform customers when factors outside its control affected journeys.

Ms Hewitt said: "I want a system where the buses are run with the view that the people paying to use them have a say in services.

"I want mayoral candidates to commit to making massive changes to the bus system within Leeds and West Yorkshire."

Her concerns were put to all seven candidates during a debate due to be broadcast on Sunday.

Here is how they responded:

Waj Ali, Reform UK

Image source, Reform UK

"As a bus user myself, I regularly take my children to school on the bus.

"What would be interesting is how many of the candidates actually use a bus and go through what the lady and her children and myself go through on a daily basis.

"What I would do in the first instance is commission a report, a 60-day report. I want to know who is running late, which company is the main culprit and put all the companies on a six-month probation period.

"My report will ensure the bus companies that are not pulling their weight, irrespective of whether they are large or small operators, they will still get a probation period and if they still don't fulfil the probation categories they will be struck off.,

"You have to have some form of accountability.

"From the mayoral budget my plan is for every child or adult in full-time education to be given a free monthly bus pass.

"We have to be seen to be on the public's side, not the side of the private bus companies."

Tracy Brabin, Labour

Image source, Labour Party

"This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring buses back into control.

"Not nationalisation, but bringing it into our control so that we can then work on where the buses need to go, who they are serving.

"As the MP for Batley and Spen for the last five years, I know a collection of towns and villages, our bus services across the whole region are just not fit for purpose because it is working for profit and not for people.

"I had a big public meeting just before Covid talking about changes to Arriva's timetable and the impact those changes had on individual lives. One gentleman was a widower and he couldn't go to his lunch club at all and he only went out once a week. This is really impactful on people's lives.

"It's also about jobs because it's about creating cleaner, greener buses and also to have that tap-in tap-out capped fare that we see in London.

"If it's good enough for London surely it's good enough for West Yorkshire."

Bob Buxton, Yorkshire Party

Image source, Yorkshire Party

"Firstly we obviously need electric buses, York's getting them. Why are we behind yet again?

"We also need smarter 'tap and pay' to give people fair advantage if they are travelling across the region. Currently you can get penalised if you have to use different services.

"Let's build towards a franchise model. Different companies can bid to be part of the franchise, but only if they fly under the same flag so the customer doesn't get ripped off any more.

"Allow bus passes to be used 24/7. They are in London, so why not in West Yorkshire and indeed the whole of Yorkshire?

"A mass transit system is clearly what we need for the whole of West Yorkshire, we desperately need that."

Andrew Cooper, Green Party

Image source, Green Party

"Deregulation has failed our communities for 30 years. It has been supported by both Labour and Conservative governments over that time.

"It is a failed experiment and so many communities have now been cut off effectively at certain times of day and entirely at others.

"So, yes, it needs to be brought back under public control, but I do look at mass rapid transit systems and think: 'How come Manchester, how come Sheffield have tram systems, yet West Yorkshire has been failed over such a long time?'

"We need to get some action happening quickly and have a timetable to do it.

"We are going to need to have a plan and be able to go to the government with that plan and put that forward quickly.

"On the bus services that we have we need to ensure they are fined when they miss buses and we need people to report it."

Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat

Image source, Stewart Golton

"We do need mass transit don't we?

"We also need to make sure our bus services are run in the interest of passengers, not for bus companies and unfortunately, at the moment, that's all that we have.

"We have a system which is very much weighted in favour of bus companies and their profits.

"The schemes which get approved through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority historically have all been about getting buses to move quicker so the bus companies can make more money as opposed to making sure more people can get on to those bus services.

"As mayor I want to see the powers that London has at the moment so we can ensure we get the same effect of that control, because in London bus passenger journeys have doubled over the last 10 years.

"Here they've reduced by about 50%. We need to turn that around to ensure that people can get to work in the morning."

Thérèse Hirst, English Democrats

Image source, English Democrats

"This has been a problem for such a long time.

"I agree we need a mass transit system. It is going to cost money from the government and we need to make sure we get that funding from them.

"With regard to timetabling, we need to sit down with these failing bus companies and look at the routes they have and their timetables and say: 'Right. This is the minimum requirement we need at peak-hour, this is the minimum amount on this route' and reintroduce the routes that have been cut over decades.

"There's been lots of bus routes cut and we need to look at where those are and get those back up and running again.

"If these bus companies cannot deliver on what they are doing then they need to be penalised and I am sure once they realise this is going to happen they are going to get their act together."

Matt Robinson, Conservative

Image source, Conservative Party

"The mass transit system is important, but it has to go alongside that last mile. It isn't just about getting across the city or getting from Leeds to London, it's about how you get home.

"What we need to make sure we are doing is clean, green and on-time buses, it's more flexible ticketing, it's demand-led transportation and no congestion charge.

"We don't need to bring in a congestion charge which hits the poorest hardest.

"I know other candidates have talked about the Manchester model that's there. We've already seen that some of the transitional costs are over £130m to deliver what they are talking about and a congestion charge.

"We shouldn't be replicating, we should be seeking to innovate here. That's the way we will deal with climate change, but it is also the way we will get transport moving."

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Note: This lookup covers national elections in Scotland and Wales, the Hartlepool by-election, as well as council and mayoral elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales. There may be parish council elections or council by-elections where you are. Check your local council website for full details. Last updated: May 11, 2021, 12:35 GMT

A special programme with all the candidates- A Mayor for West Yorkshire - will be broadcast at 14:20 BST on Sunday on BBC One in Yorkshire.