YUSU have urged students to avoid using First Buses after the company announced the free section of the number 4 service, linking the Heslington East and West campuses, is to be scrapped.
Kallum Taylor, YUSU President, has branded the decision as “a double slap in the face for York students”.
The free service will be wound up before the start of the coming term.
Taylor has expressed outrage at the decision and the lack of consultation from First with both the University and YUSU on the change.
The decision to scrap the free service comes at a time when the link between campuses is becoming increasingly important with the new sports centre now open and Langwith College about to move to Heslington East. However, a new service, 14, will run to the sports village from Acomb Green Lane.
Additionally Taylor has stated his concern that First may try to oust UniBus, YUSU’s preferred operator.
YUSU believe First will now put their spare resources into the route between Heslington West and the city which could “take away custom and erode the wider services and deals it offers to students”.
UniBus currently operate the 44 and UB.1 routes which offer free travel between the campuses, as well as providing the Clubbers’ Bus service.
Taylor commented on the benefits that YUSU believe UniBus bring to students in comparison to First: “UniBus work closely with both the University and Students’ Union to provide some much needed services, including our free campus hopper, buses during moving-in days and our Clubbers’ Bus which gets students back to campus safely after nights out without causing noise nuisance to residents en route.”
He added: “This is why I’m happy to encourage all our students to support UniBus wherever possible.”
YUSU have stated their belief that First are concerned only with profit and not about the needs of students: “First Buses, on the other hand, are obviously only interesting in profiting from our students whilst trying to kill off the company that actively cares for our students, without giving anything in return.”
Taylor has strongly condemned First’s actions and is encouraging students to boycott the operator’s services: “I’ll be encouraging as many students as possible to avoid First and support UniBus, bearing in mind the other services at risk, even if that means waiting a couple of minutes rather than getting the next bus that arrives.”
Despite criticism First have defended their decision pointing out that while UniBus receive a financial subsidy they do not.
A First spokesman said: “Unlike any other bus operator that runs to the University, First does not receive a financial subsidy from the University to provide free travel for students within the University campus to Heslington East. Also we do not have access to the private road that runs into the Heslington East campus, so currently have to run on Field Lane which at times is very congested, which impacts on our reliability.”
They added: “Therefore, as the only operator running a fully commercial service, we have to make commercially based decisions on how we can provide a bus service to this area.”
Despite not consulting previously YUSU or the University on the decision, First state they are now willing to discuss their services with students.
“However, we are happy to engage with students, who are extremely important to us as our customers on service 4, and we are happy to meet with the Student Union on their behalf.”