Charity warns reduced bus services could increase loneliness and isolation amongst older people
A leading charity has warned that reduced bus services could increase loneliness and isolation amongst older people in Wales.
Age Cymru is calling on the Welsh government, local authorities, and bus operators to work together to develop sustainable services for communities across Wales, following a report from the Confederation of Public Transport (CPT) that Wales could lose up to a quarter of its bus services.
The charity says that bus services provide a lifeline to thousands of older people and if they are drastically cut, many could find themselves plunged into a life of isolation and loneliness.
For older people a reliable bus service is also crucial to connect to essential health services such as hospital appointments or visiting their GP. Many also rely upon their bus service to buy food, access cash, and pay their bills and to socialise, particularly with family and friends, it adds.
“Car ownership is often not an option and taxis can be prohibitively expensive, so together with community transport, the bus service provides a crucial lifeline for many”.
Age Cymru chief executive Victoria Lloyd said: “The impact of poor public transport on the lives of older people can be profound.
It increases isolation and loneliness and reduces opportunities to socialise or join groups and activities, which is particularly important after the isolation of Covid-19 which has disproportionally affected older people.
“We want operators, local authorities, and the Welsh Government to work together to find a sustainable solution to ensure that people can go about their daily lives getting out and about in the community.
“Older people are some of those most impacted by the cuts to public bus services; their needs should be considered, and their voices heard in any decisions that are taken.”
In its report CPT warned that cuts will be made by operators if the companies to get further long-term government funding.
It is estimated almost 10% of bus routes have been axed this summer following the ending of the government’s £150m pandemic-era emergency support.
CPT Cymru director Aaron Hill told BBC Wales: “We could have seen 20-25% of the whole network in Wales cut as a result of this most recent funding ended. We don’t want to be in that position in March and April.
“The industry wants to be able to grow to run new services and to reach places that they are not able to at the moment, but the level of funding isn’t there.”
The Welsh government said it was supporting councils with bus-priority measures to keep passengers moving and make bus travel more attractive.
It added: “Our priority up until now been ensuring services continue to run and that we are not facing wholesale collapse of the industry. We are now working on the funding offer for next year”.
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