In November 2005, First Mainline, put their bus fares up for the fourth time in a year. An adult single fare went up from £1.30 to £1.50 and South Yorkshire day tickets went up by 50p to £3.50. This represents a 36% price hike in 18 months.
WWOBB (We Want Our Buses Back) formed in the hope of reclaiming the buses and keeping bus fares affordable. WWOBB is a city-wide campaign with the backing of Council Leader Jan Wilson, who has said: “I want our buses back too!” As part of this campaign a group at the Ashram (the studio behind New Roots) have decided to build their own ‘walking bus’. Patrick Amber, community artist, said:
“We wanted something that was fun and positive, something to give our protests a sort of carnival atmosphere. The aim is for the bus to be used at as many protests and meetings as possible.”
The idea is for each person to make their own piece of the bus to hold on the protests and to make them all fit together to look like one of the First buses. Although all the basic features of the bus will be the same there is space for people to add their own individual features to it. Others getting involved in the bus protest include the Rebel Clown Army and the Rhythms of Resistance Sheffield samba band. The bus saw its first successful outing at a WWOBB demonstration in the city centre on 25th February.
The Messenger asked local bus users their views on recent fare rises:
“The bus companies have risen fares too high and they do it without warning. I have my hands tied as the buses are my only form of transport so I will have to pay the fare.” – No 47 passenger
“I think it’s disgusting! I have a free pass from the course I’m on but for other people it’s just too high.” – Linda Miller, waiting for No 7 on Firshill Crescent
“My Daysaver ticket has gone up by 50p but I have no choice but to use the buses.” – Nathiniel Dennis – No 76 bus user
When the Messenger asked First South Yorkshire Ltd to justify the fare increases, Commercial director Brandon Jones said:
“The third increase to fares in November was necessary to meet the huge increase in costs that unfortunately has not been fully met by previous changes. Overall costs have risen by nearly 40% in the last five years partly affected by the global economic situation and the price changes in crude oil.
“As a commercial operator we do need to make decisions from time to time to ensure we cover our costs of operation and return profit to allow growth and deliver a return on the investment our Shareholders make, over half of whom are our own staff. Since 2002, that investment has seen over 100 buses enter Sheffield alone representing over £10 million.”
For more information about the local campaign against the Bus Fare rises or to help with the campaign bus, contact Dave Havard on 296 9695. The group need eighteen volunteers to make the walking bus run, so get in touch if you can help.
The next meeting of the citywide WWOBB campaign is on 8th March at 7pm, Quaker Meeting House.
by Tom Sadler & Reuben Vincent