Sheffield City Council
Strategic Transport and Infrastructure Team
Sheffield Clean Air Zone Consultation
I am responding to the Clean Air Zone Consultation as a bus worker in the Sheffield City area.
I understand the need to reduce air pollution and that the Government has required local authorities such as Sheffield City Council to take action to reduce its levels of NO2 to below the legal limit by 2021.
The Council will be aware that since the 1980s the bus market in England has been deregulated, which means that private bus companies have significant freedoms when deciding which routes and services to operate. Nationally, around 8000 bus drivers have lost their jobs since 2010 and 3300 bus services in England and Wales have been reduced, altered or withdrawn. This decline of bus services highlighted in the recent Transport Committee report into the Health of the Bus Market.
Therefore, I have concerns that there is the potential that bus companies could respond to the Clean Air Charge by cutting less profitable routes in order to make savings. This practice, whereby bus companies select the most profitable routes to run, is an issue that was raised by bus worker members when responding to a survey conducted by my Union, the RMT, in 2018. In the Sheffield area, this could impact job security for bus workers and increase isolation for communities and individuals who rely on bus transport. There is also the risk that the charge will be passed down onto passengers, in the form of higher fares.
Nationally, the most recent bus statistics show that fares in metropolitan areas outside of London increased by 3.9%, a rate higher than inflation, in the last year.
Is the Council able to advise what steps it plans to take to prevent adverse impacts on bus workers and passengers, should it decide to implement the charge as it is proposing?
Further, another unintended consequence of the charge could be that it increases the volume of private vehicles into the city, as there are currently no plans to levy a charge onto these vehicles. This could have a negative impact on both air quality and congestion in the city.
Public transportation, of which buses are an integral function, has significant potential to bring about improvements in air quality. So I believe it is important to consider the proposed Clean Air Charge in this context and as part of a wider bus strategy.
My Union, the RMT will also be putting in a response to the consultation, which will expand on the issues I’ve raised in this letter. I believe it would be of benefit for Sheffield City Council to get the views of bus workers as part of this consultation, and the RMT would be happy to help facilitate this.
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