YORK’S transport bosses could seize control of the city’s bus network if attempts to boost passenger numbers fail.

A bus improvement study commissioned by City of York Council has claimed the city’s Quality Bus Partnership (QBP) lacks "focus and dynamism" and must be overhauled, after figures showed the number of passengers has flatlined despite the authority’s attempts to promote public transport.

Research by Julian Ridge Transport Planning Ltd and the TAS Partnership said York’s services were “patchy” and there was “widespread dissatisfaction” over areas such as fares and evening and Sunday service levels.

It has recommended fresh agreements between the council and bus firms to improve standards, considering inviting major employers and other transport companies to join the QBP and closer inspection of “performance data” such as delays and timekeeping.

If this does not work, the report says the council should look at a Quality Contract Scheme, allowing it to lay down rules about how the network is organised and operated and to regulate routes and fares.

It said the council should start to “build knowledge” about these powers so it can apply for them if necessary.

The study revealed York’s bus passenger numbers over the last five years had been “broadly flat” despite population growth, and the council was “currently dependent on operator goodwill” to implement transport policy.

It said the authority could now fund major bus improvements following millions of pounds in external funding and it should carry out a full review of the bus network. looking at areas such as more “integration” between Park&Ride buses and other services.

Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, the council’s deputy leader, said: “Our first priority is to set out a bus strategy, in conjunction with the QBP, making clear exactly what is expected from bus services across the city.”

She said performance could then be assessed against targets, adding: “Only where this is not delivering results will we pursue a Quality Contract Scheme, which would give the council more powers over bus services, including frequency and routes.

“But key to improving the bus service is the council and bus companies working constructively together, ultimately leading to increased patronage, which is in everybody’s interests.”