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Concerns raised over future of Welsh bus travel after post-Covid support dries up

07 Dec 2023 2 minute read
A Stagecoach bus on the 151 route from Blackwood to Newport. Credit: LDRS

Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter

The Welsh Government is being urged to offer more support to “struggling” bus companies amid fears over the future of bus travel in Wales.

Caerphilly councillor Kevin Etheridge has called on ministers to provide “clarity” and timescales for post-pandemic support for buses.

The government brought in – and later extended – emergency funding schemes for bus firms during Covid-19 lockdown periods, after stay-at-home restrictions caused passenger numbers to plummet.

But that main source of support was withdrawn in the summer, and Cllr Etheridge said local authorities were left wondering how they could “plug the gap” when the current financial year ends.

Julie James, Wales’ minister for climate change, said she had asked councils to “work up new regional bus network plans” with Transport for Wales.

Priority network

In a letter to the councillor, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), she said the new plans would “identify a priority network” of bus routes for “further support”.

The Welsh Government’s Bus Transition Fund, brought in to replace the Covid-era emergency funding, “ensured many key bus routes are protected”, Ms James added.

The minister said the government wanted to make local bus travel “more attractive and affordable”, and there is the “potential” to introduce flat or capped fares.

But copying England’s £2 capped fare scheme had been “hampered” by a “challenging funding settlement” from Westminster, Ms James said.

Focus

The short-term focus in Wales, therefore, would be to “ensure essential bus services are maintained for communities”, she added.

Commenting on the letter from the minister, Cllr Etheridge told the LDRS he was “disappointed” there was no information regarding timescales for projects or further potential funding available to councils.

He has now written back to the government’s climate change department – which is responsible for transport matters – to seek further information on future support for buses.


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Ap Kenneth
2 months ago

When Thatcher privatised and deregulated buses it was to open “the market” to competition and innovation. Neither of these has come to pass with buses being used to generate profit and dividends for their ultimate owners. Buses have not been turned into a compelling service. Should private owners be subsidised for failure? If services were franchised then a fee would be paid that will again include a profit element to be stripped from the services. Surely better to have a mix of municipal owned bus services in dense urban areas and Tfw buses in other areas or long distance coaches.… Read more »

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