A PETITION has been launched to force transport leaders’ hands - after it was revealed that Barnsley will see the biggest bus cuts across South Yorkshire next month at a time when its per-passenger funding continues to be slashed.

Just days after its launch by the Better Buses for South Yorkshire (BBSY) group - whose members met in Barnsley on Wednesday - the petition has been signed by almost 800 people.

In the last two years other regions have received around £30 per person from central government to maintain their bus services, but Barnsley’s sum stands at just £4.50.

Fran Postlethwaite, from the group, said: “Until 1986 this area was renowned for its cheap and reliable bus services.

“Since deregulation fares have risen, services have been cut, and reliability has declined.

“This has resulted in fewer job opportunities, restricted access to education and training, thousands of missed hospital appointments and reduced opportunities for leisure pursuits especially in the evenings and on Sundays.

“The viability of businesses and communities is threatened - 30 per cent of our population have no access to a private vehicle so if we are serious about ‘levelling up’, we must provide a reliable bus service.

“The climate emergency requires a major shift to public transport, so good bus services are vital.

“Westminster leaders have the money and power to make this happen - this is why we want thousands of people to tell the government we must not continue on this spiral of decline.”

By November 1, evening and weekend bus routes will be affected unless further support is secured.

In Barnsley, a reduction in the frequency of the routes in the evening will drop to 58.5 per cent of its existing mileage, and 59.4 per cent on Sundays.

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard has supported the group’s petition - which will be sent to Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt - and organised a series of drop-in events for passengers to share their views on the bus network.

These will take place at the Dorothy Hyman Stadium in Cudworth on November 7 at 4.30pm, the Digital Media Centre in the town centre on November 9 at 5.30pm and Hoyland Leisure Centre on November 13 at 6pm.

BBSY supporter Jim Bamford added: “We welcome the decision by Mr Coppard to organise a large number of public meetings across the region on the need for increased funding.

“Buses are already in crisis, with unreliable services, routes cut and appalling weekend and evening timetables.

“Lack of government funding will make the situation even worse.

“We have launched the petition to enable passengers and would-be passengers to demonstrate their support for the demand for fair treatment.”

* The petition can be found online at megaphone.org.uk.