Scrapping York bus service will be 'disaster' for people with disabilities

·3-min read
Disability rights campaigner Flick Williams, left, on board the Cityzap, right
Disability rights campaigner Flick Williams, left, on board the Cityzap, right

The scrapping of the fast Cityzap bus service between York and Leeds is a “potential disaster” for people with disabilities, a campaigner has said.

Operator Transdev said the service, which launched in 2016, was not sustainable as passenger numbers had not recovered from the worst effects of the pandemic.

It will stop running on November 19.

The service was designed to offer a cheaper alternative to the train and tempt car users onto public transport. In 2020 Transdev introduced five ‘Sky Class’ buses to the route – featuring spacious seating, tables and free wifi – at a cost of £1.4 million.

Disability rights campaigner Flick Williams uses Cityzap as she said the passenger assistance and ramps on the train route were frequently unreliable.

“The ending of the Zap service between York and Leeds is disappointing for many – for disabled people it is a potential disaster,” she added.

“Every bus taken off disproportionately affects disabled people – longer waits for people with pain, stamina and fatigue issues – and wheelchair users in particular.

“With only one wheelchair space per bus, every lost bus increases the likelihood of that space already being occupied, which denies travel.”

Ms Williams said Transdev’s slower Coastliner service was often full of York College students and was “fast becoming an unreliable means of travelling across the city – let alone further afield”.

It comes as Transport for the North warns that more than one in five people across the north are at risk of transport-related social exclusion.

A decline in bus service provision has exacerbated the problem by reducing travel choices for the most vulnerable people, according to the analysis.

Cllr Ashley Mason, who represents Dringhouses and Woodthrope on City of York Council, said Citzap was a convenient and affordable option for people in his area.

He added: “With this unfortunate decision, users of the Cityzap will be faced with more expensive and less convenient train journeys, or using a car, which from an environmental perspective is the worst possible outcome.

“I fear that unless the government takes seriously the warnings about cliff-edge cuts to services when current funding streams run out, and provides investment that allows operators to plan ahead, there may be more bad news coming.”

A statement from Transdev said passenger numbers on Cityzap had been as low as 50 per cent of those in 2019.

“As you can imagine, this trend can’t continue and is unsustainable to manage,” a spokesperson said.

“Like every business at the moment, our fuel and energy costs are rising fast – while even at our value for money fares – which are much cheaper than the train between York and Leeds – leisure customers are now less likely to make fewer discretionary trips for shopping, days out and so on.

“This could not have been anticipated when we introduced Cityzap in 2016, nor as we moved beyond the pandemic, but is the reality we now must respond to. The combined impact of the Covid pandemic and sharply rising energy costs are being felt by every bus operator in the country.”