SOUTH Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard has revealed work to bring bus services back into public ownership will be high on his agenda having been re-elected.

Mr Coppard won the election with 138,611 votes, roughly 51 per cent of all votes cast in the ballot.

He was first elected mayor in 2022 and should have served a four-year term, but the election was brought forward after the roles of mayor and South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (SYPCC) were merged.

Mr Coppard will serve until May 2028 and will take over the role of SYPCC from Dr Alan Billings, who is retiring.

Buses - he said - are the most widely used form of public transport in Barnsley and provide a ‘crucial’ public service, connecting communities and enabling people to get to work, school and meet family and friends.

However, the current deregulated system has seen a decline in patronage over many years and the increasing use of public funding used to support services, leading to growing calls for public control.

The government’s 2017 Bus Services Act gave English ‘metro mayors’ - such as ex-county boss and Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis and his successor Mr Coppard - new powers to set up Transport for London-style bus franchise systems.

Government rules require county bosses to undertake a three-step evaluation of the policy which includes a technical assessment, audit and public consultation before announcing a final decision.

At a meeting on Tuesday - having been re-elected just days prior - Mr Coppard said a decision to effectively have current operators apply for contracts would be made within 12 months.

He said: “I refuse to accept a situation where people aren’t able to access opportunities in South Yorkshire.

“There’s talent and opportunity right across our region, but it is only by connecting the two that we will unlock its full potential.

“So on day one of my mayoral term, I have committed to start rolling out a new integrated public transport network by the end of this four-year term.

“That’s how we’ll make sure that everyone who lives here can access work or training, see a doctor, see friends and family and - crucially - access opportunity.

“We’ll start by taking a decision on bus reform within 12 months.

“I have said I want to restore the pride, purpose and prosperity - that means connecting talent with opportunity, and giving everyone across Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield both freedom and choice about how they travel and move; putting people at the centre of our plans, not just for our transport network but in everything we do.”

In March, Mr Coppard welcomed the franchising assessment which stated that the preferred option was to bring buses back under public control with depots and fleet owned by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA).

The next step in this process is for SYMCA to obtain an independent audit of the assessment in order to proceed to consultation.

A 12-week public consultation will be run, ensuring people are at the heart of the process with local passengers, businesses and transport providers able have their say before the mayor takes the decision as to whether to implement bus reform.

Mr Coppard added: “Right now our bus services are in a spiral of decline.

“That’s not just a disaster for our economy or our environment, it’s denying opportunity to people right across our communities.

“I believe that bus franchising - taking buses back into public control, so we make all the major decisions not private bus companies - is the best way to do just that.”