Passengers in West Yorkshire are being urged to boycott their buses this Friday to show operators that the people are not to be messed with.
The boycott call comes less than a month after two of the largest bus companies in West Yorkshire angered customers by putting up the price of their tickets.
First, who are the main operators in Leeds, increased their fares on January 2 by an average of seven per cent, blaming soaring fuel costs and the fact that they hadn't raised their prices for almost a year and a half.
On the same day, Arriva put 20p on the the price of their £2.10, £2.30, £2.60 and £2.80 tickets, saying that the current economic pressures were forcing them to increase income just to maintain service levels.
Now, the local campaign group Better Bus is urging passengers to boycott buses on Friday and walk to work, cycle or car share instead. They suggest that the money people save on bus tickets could be sent to one of four local charities, providing a welcome boost for them as well as an unwelcome raspberry to the bus operators.
Campaigners reckon that the latest price increases simply underline the need for Metro, West Yorkshire's passenger transport authority, to move forward with plans for a whole new system of ‘quality contracts’. This would take all decisions about fares and levels of service away from the bus operators – who are driven by the need to make profits - and hand them over to the PTE, who are driven by the need to provide a public service.
Under this system, operators would bid for contracts issued by the PTE to provide bus services, with service levels, fare prices and even the type of vehicle used being pre-determined by the contract. The move would effectively reverse the de-regulation of bus services introduced by then Transport Secretary Nicholas Ridley during the 1980's.
Metro are by no means the only PTE who are thinking about de-deregulating the bus industry in their area. This is a subject I expect I'll be returning to in the near future.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on West Yorkshire on Friday.