FED-UP bus users have praised local leaders for finally putting pressure on the government to free up cash to improve services - after a study revealed a huge disparity between Barnsley’s per-head funding when compared to its neighbours.

Commuters in the town receive funding which equates to just £4.50 per head, according to the Better Buses for South Yorkshire group, despite customers in bordering West Yorkshire receiving the equivalent of £34 per head.

However, public meetings put on by South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard - including one in Penistone earlier this month - have been praised by campaigners and hailed as a step in the right direction.

Spokesperson George Arthur said: “I am really pleased to see that Mr Coppard is reaching out to the public to put pressure on the government to improve funding for our buses.

“I went to the meeting he held in Penistone and was impressed by the way he outlined his determination to fight for money to improve our bus network.

“It is clear that we will only see a public transport system that is fit for purpose - private bus companies have shown that they are only interested in making profits and not in providing a social service.

“Unfortunately the legislation brought in by the Thatcher government does not allow, at the moment, for privatisation to be ended but Mr Coppard is correct that franchising our buses is the first step to regaining control.

“He’s calling for people to ask for public meetings with him to discuss problems in their localities - this is a good step forward and I hope many more such meetings will be organised.”

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However, enormous predicted costs for bringing under-fire services back into the public’s control could have ‘huge consequences’ on Barnsley Council’s budget, leaders warned.

About £5m would be spent on assessing the franchising model and its development, but ‘further substantial costs’ will be incurred if the nod is given.

Mr Coppard added: “For too long our communities have had to put up with a declining, under-funded public transport network, with regular cuts to services.

“The government said they want to see a ‘London-style transport network’ here by 2030 but right now we’re a million miles away from that goal and the clock is ticking.

“Without investment things are going to get worse, not better.

“I’m determined to fight for a world-class public transport network in our region - it won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, but that has got to be the goal.

“We’re doing everything we can, but they need to put their money where their mouth is.

“While the government promised us ‘levelling up’, in reality the bus network in our region is broken.

“I am determined to fight these cuts so we can have the public transport system we need and deserve.

“I’m going to continue to use every lever I have to create a network that works for our communities.”