Council calls for assurances from Welsh Government over future of bus services
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
Cardiff Council has called on the Welsh Government to provide more assurances for the future of its bus services as a consultation on improving bus networks draws to a close.
The Welsh Government’s white paper consultation, ‘One network, one timetable, one ticket: planning buses as a public service for Wales’ closes next Friday (June 24).
The day before that, Cardiff Council’s cabinet will meet to discuss some of the concerns around the future of transport in the city in relation to the white paper. Some of the concerns the council thinks should be addressed include:
- More information around long-term funding plans;
- More clarity on support for municipal bus companies which often operate less well-used routes, avoided by private sector companies;
- Consideration of school transport arrangements currently not covered in the consultation; and
- Introduction of measures which ensure local councils are best placed to determine how local bus routes are delivered linking in with plans for park and rides and smart corridors.
Cabinet Member for Transport, Councillor Dan De’Ath said there are a number of “unanswered questions” in relation to the Welsh Government’s consultation.
He added: “We want to see bus user numbers double in Cardiff by 2030. To do that we will need to work with partners, including Welsh Government, to radically improve bus transport and – there’s a lot in this consultation which could help us achieve that.
“However, there are also a great number of unanswered questions around long-term funding, protection for municipal bus companies, support for non-profitable routes, and just how local authorities will, in practice, be given an opportunity to exert control over the design of local bus networks. All of these are important matters which need resolved.”
The white paper sets out the Welsh Government’s proposal to improve public transport bus services by requiring the franchising of bus services across Wales, allowing local authorities to create new municipal bus companies and relaxing restrictions on existing municipal bus companies to put them on the same footing as new ones.
£1 standard fare
Cardiff Council say more needs to be done to bring bus usage in the city back to and beyond pre-pandemic levels – finding a way of introducing a £1 standard bus fare is one of the council’s solutions to doing this.
Cllr De’Ath added: “We trialled this in the run up to Christmas and the feedback we received was very positive. It could be a game changer when it comes to growing bus usage.
“Any Wales-wide bus strategy will therefore need to be carefully considered and funded if it is to succeed.
“We need assurances regarding the funding of bus services and the supporting infrastructure needed to grow bus patronage moving forward and we also need assurances from Welsh Government that the reforms will include a fail-safe mechanism to protect the interests of Cardiff’s municipal bus company, Cardiff Bus.
“Right now Cardiff Bus enjoys significant coverage in the wider Cardiff area but the White Paper makes no observations on how, or if, market share in the council’s area could or indeed should be protected under a franchise situation.
“While the White Paper encourages municipal ownership, it makes no reference to the very real challenges that UK competition law could bring.”
Cardiff Council’s cabinet will agree on a response to the consultation at its next meeting.
Cardiff Council’s Environmental Scrutiny Committee will also consider the White Paper at its meeting on Thursday, June 16.
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