Council clashes with MS over disruption to bus services in Merthyr Tydfil
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
The council and the Member of the Senedd for Merthyr Tydfil have clashed over the ongoing problems with local bus services.
The council has said it has no control over the “vast majority” of the local bus service network in Merthyr Tydfil amid ongoing service disruptions and cancellations in the area.
Merthyr Tydfil Council said in a statement that most of the local bus service network is run commercially by bus operators and the disruptions locally and across the region have been because of driver availability and the ongoing impact of coronavirus.
The council said it was responding to comments by the local Member of the Senedd (MS) Dawn Bowden.
In response, the MS said she makes no excuse for championing the cause of local bus users who she said deserve far better, adding that the council could do more if it wanted to.
In its statement, Merthyr Tydfil Council said: “Further to recent statements made by Dawn Bowden MS regarding bus services in Merthyr Tydfil, we would like to remind residents that the vast majority of the local bus service network is run purely on a commercial basis by bus operators and therefore the council has no control over how this operates and all decisions on the services are made on a financial basis by the operator.
“An annual bus services grant is provided to the council by Welsh Government, which only funds a very small number of necessary services to isolated areas.
“The recent service disruptions and cancellations on bus networks, both locally and across the region, have been attributed by bus operators to driver availability and the continued impact of Covid-19.
“The council is currently working with the Association of Transport and the Welsh Local Government Association in responding to the Welsh Government’s consultation for new bus legislation.
“This will look to allow the creation of a new system of bus franchising to provide a more comprehensive and sustainable model.”
In response, Dawn Bowden MS said: “I note that Merthyr CBC have referenced me on Facebook in relation to local bus services.
“I make no excuse for championing the cause of local bus users who deserve far better than the current situation.
“I recently wrote to the council’s chief executive and I am awaiting his reply.
“The council also fails to reference that they – not me- have the power to enter in to an agreement providing for service subsidies where the service would not be provided, or would not be provided to a particular standard.
“They could do more if there was a will and that is a matter of their priorities. The Welsh Government has recently announced more funding to support bus services in Wales.
“I am also speaking to the transport unions about the situation. We all need to work harder to find better solutions as the current position is letting too many people down.
“I will put bus users and their needs first. The council can join me and could use their powers and budget to help meet that challenge if they wish.”
In May, Stagecoach announced there would be a reduction in buses serving Merthyr Tydfil due to a shortage of staff.
A number of buses were cancelled, with other services covering their routes.
The council said that Stagecoach explained that the changes are unavoidable due to driver shortages, especially in the Merthyr Tydfil area.
They added that the company is actively trying to recruit new drivers and will look to reintroduce some or increase frequency in some areas should the situation improve.
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