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Communities cut off because Wales’ bus industry is ‘in a state of despair’

14 Nov 2023 3 minute read
A bus stop in Ynysddu. Photo via Google

Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter

Councillors have been warned that ambitious plans to regenerate town centres will fail because of a lack of reliable public transport, as a senior council officer described the bus system in Wales as “in a state of despair”.

Caerphilly Council is preparing to launch a public consultation on its Greater Blackwood Masterplan in early 2024, seeking to “stimulate economic, social and cultural activity” around the town.

But a councillor from a nearby ward has warned that would-be shoppers will be cut off from Blackwood without more reliable bus links.

“We’ve got to get people onto buses and into Blackwood,” Cllr Jan Jones said. “The problem is the buses don’t turn up.”

Unbelievable

Cllr Jones said problems with the reliability of bus services were “unbelievable in this day and age”, adding that it was “like a celebration if somebody can actually make it to Blackwood and get home [to her Ynysddu ward] again”.

Issues with public transport mean people “can’t give up a car down our way,” she added.

The council’s masterplan for Blackwood is primarily a planning document, but Cllr Jones told officers at a recent meeting the strategy should also “take a look at public transport”.

She and fellow Ynysddu councillor Janine Reed had received “dozens and dozens of complaints” about bus links, which they have passed on to the council and Welsh Government, she told a council committee.

Mark Williams, Caerphilly Council’s corporate director for economy and environment, said the local authority had held a “crisis meeting” with the government about bus travel, and while no decisions had been made, he warned the future of buses was “not going to be good”.

Mess

The bus industry was in “a real mess”, he added, with firms heavily reliant on government funding because passenger numbers had failed to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“The bus industry in Wales is in a state of despair, and frankly is in a mess,” Mr Williams added.

Committee chairman Gary Johnston told colleagues “we are all affected by this”.

“It is not good that our buses are going backwards, not forwards,” he added. “We’re trying to get people out of cars, [but now] we’re pushing them back into cars again.”

The Welsh Government is currently working on new legislation to re-centralise the nation’s bus services.

Last week, deputy minister for climate change Lee Waters said there was “overwhelming support” for reforming bus services, and claimed the current “privatised” model was “broken”.

He said: “Despite the additional funding we have made available, we still face a challenging combination of rising costs and suppressed demand, and this has led bus companies across Wales to cut back on routes and service frequencies.”

Mr Waters added: “Ultimately, we need wholescale reform, network planning, and an operating model that puts passengers and public interest before profit.”


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
7 months ago

Agree public transport in Wales is a basket case. In Cardiff the bus service is more often than not infrequent, unreliable and expensive. Its impossible to get to and from work using the council owned and run bus service. They seem to have plenty to spend on 20mph intro, cycle lanes etc but not for buses for locals. Its a nightmare.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
7 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

To be fair, 20mph zones and cycle lanes are part of making conditions conducive to modal shift, so that people feel enabled to use cycles, or walk. As it is, the £33 million spend will save the Welsh NHS over £92 million every year. If these measures then lead to more people walking and cycling then the savings could be much more as the population becomes fitter. But yes, the service provided by Cardiff Bus is pretty atrocious, but that’s partially down to traffic congestion, (too many cars) and buses not having sufficient priority. There is nothing stopping the council… Read more »

Elen Wade
Elen Wade
7 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

How much walking and cycling do you plan to do this winter, now that you feel “enabled” to do so thanks to the modal shift provided by the move towards Net Zero?

Jonathan Stanway
Jonathan Stanway
7 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

The savings to the NHS will be dwarfed by the costs to the economy, the governments own figures state as much. In reality the increased transport costs to local councils will probably cancel any NHS savings on their own. The idea that a significant proportion of people will swap to walking/cycling and away from cars due to the change is simply laughable, again, the Welsh Assemblies own survey data suggested that whilst 9% of people claimed they would drive less, 11% said they would drive more. It’s also ridiculous for the transport minister to bemoan the reduction in bus services… Read more »

Ap Kenneth
7 months ago

Privatisation has been a disaster and giving that system public money so that they can take out dividends has not led to investment, it has been a milch cow for the likes of the German Rail network, Deutsche Bahn. It needs to be taken into public ownership, invested in with electricification of the bus network, bus only guided tracks to avoid congestion (as in Cambridge) and priority at traffic lights plus other ideas to make a system usable and a joy to use. If £590 million plus for the current upgrade of the Heads of the Valley Road can be… Read more »

David Parry
David Parry
7 months ago

My local route has turned into a cash cow for first group. Buses jam packed in the morning so much so that the bus has to drive past people waiting at bus stops. I get that they cut back because of council savings … But…..Sunday service public transport is empty. Run them bi hourly!!!. A degree of common sense woul be very welcome.. It’s sad, because this could be rectified. We see the assembly literally throwing money at Cardiff airport and TfW. The eye watering ammount of cash spent on 20 mph would have been better spent on bus routes.We… Read more »

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
7 months ago

Since the introduction of the Drakeford 20mph speed limit bus services in Anglesey have been cut. This makes travelling within the community impossible without a car which is a prohibitive expense for many of us. Llanddaniel has no service now…it used to form part of the Bangor to Holyhead route, every other bus…now gone. This village has a large housing estate. Services to Cemaes Bay may need the customer to get a bus from Bangor on the mainland. I work in Llandygai. Impossible to now get there by bus from Llangefni as my hours vary…6.45am start to 7pm finish. I… Read more »

Peter
Peter
7 months ago

It appears that Welsh Labour supporter’s must go around with their eyes closed. The whole of Wales is in the need of repair.
However Mark Drakeford will assure everybody that it’s Westminster tomblame

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