Arriva to introduce contactless payments to Wakefield buses as company defends its local service

Wakefield Bus Station
Wakefield Bus Station

Contactless payments, new vehicles and cheaper tickets for young people are among plans being rolled out by bus operator Arriva on services in Wakefield.

The company has defended its local record following criticism from councillors and public bodies this year.

Arriva Yorkshire's area general manager, John Croxford

Arriva Yorkshire's area general manager, John Croxford

One senior councillor recently claimed that services were "declining" in parts of the district, while a report in April suggested that young people were being held back in the jobs market because of the network.

Arriva says that in Yorkshire, buses were more punctual in 2017 than ever before and that has invested in more late-night transport in response to customer feedback.

Arriva's area managing director, Jon Croxford, said that the rise of Uber and changes to people's working patterns had resulted in a "challenging time" for the bus industry in recent years.

But he insisted that the firm had responded by making things better for passengers.

He said: "It's quite possible for bus companies to react to that in a way I'd perceive to be quite negative.

"By that I mean significantly reducing the number of services, whacking up the fares and squeezing costs and trying to survive that way.

"I'm quite proud of the way in Arriva Yorkshire we've managed to preserve our network over these last three quite turbulent years for the industry.

"We felt the way to success is to make buses the mode of choice and to continue to invest in quality.

"The fact that we were more punctual and reliable last year than ever before - people wouldn't necessarily think or know that, because their perception will be based on their last bad experience. And fair enough, that's what we'd all do. But the reality is most of our services are delivering."

Mr Croxford acknowledged that a "small number" of services in the Hemsworth and South Elmsall area have been cut since 2015, which has led to concerns that residents may be isolated from the rest of Wakefield.

He said part of the problem was a reduction in funding from the local authority and dwindling passenger numbers.

He said: "It's true that two or three years ago we had more services that ran through Ryhill, Havecroft and down through to Barnsley.

"But in those areas the numbers of people using the service was very low. In order to make sure our resources are where they're needed most, we had to reallocate parts of our service in the south east of the Wakefield district.

"Indeed, one small independent operator took over one of the services, and operated the 193 bus. That ended this summer because the numbers simply weren't there.

"So it's not just Arriva that can't work a sustainable service out of that part of the district."

Arriva says it is making a number of improvements to its infrastructure to make life on the road easier for young people.

From early next year, all passengers will be able to pay using the contactless card system, prices for mobile tickets bought online have been frozen and fares for anyone up to the age of 18 have been slashed.

Arriva says it has worked with others bus companies and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to introduce a £2.60 day ticket for the under 19s which can take them anywhere in the region.

In a bid to meet new emissions regulations, the company will also be renewing its stock.

Mr Croxford said: "We recognise that a big barrier for young people is that public transport can appear complicated.

"It's our job to make it as simple as possible. From the things that we've done, the feedback has been very positive."