Council leader calls for urgent talks to address ‘alarming’ bus problems
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
The leader of Merthyr Tydfil Council has called for urgent talks with Wales’ transport and economy leaders in an effort to resolve the town’s ongoing bus problems
Councillor Geraint Thomas has contacted the chief executive of Cardiff Capital Region City Deal and chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Transport Authority to seek a meeting to discuss bus and driver shortages.
Cllr Thomas, who represents Merthyr Tydfil on the transport authority, said: “Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, the bus services in the Cardiff Capital Region – and especially the northern valleys communities – have been hit hard.
“Despite Welsh Government support through several Bus Emergency Support schemes, the number of bus journeys that are being cancelled daily is alarming. People can’t get to work or attend medical appointments.
“…we’re hearing about cancellations of multiple services, which is obviously extremely annoying and inconvenient for our residents, workers and visitors. The sooner we can convene a meeting to try to rectify these problems, the better.”
Cllr Thomas recently met Senedd Member Dawn Bowden and Gerald Jones MP, along with council officers, and they agreed to work together for better bus services for the people of Merthyr Tydfil.
The council said that a further meeting between the two politicians and Stagecoach resulted in assurances from the company that action was being taken to recruit more staff and reintroduce some of the services that have been withdrawn in recent months, with a new timetable by the end of October and continuing improvements
Cllr Thomas said: “In my capacity as the leader of council, I write to you to see if we can convene an urgent RTA bus summit/workshop in September to discuss the serious challenges and pressures that will be coming our way in this financial year and the next.”
The council is also currently working with the Association of Transport and 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, sustainable model.
He said: “We’re planning to undertake an urgent piece of work to ensure we understand how we’d wish to see a future Merthyr Tydfil bus network.”
New travel patterns
A Confederation of Passenger Transport spokesperson said: “Bus operators are continuing to work together with local authority partners to balance a network of reliable and affordable services, as bus networks continue to adapt to new travel patterns.
“Like most industries, the bus sector is currently experiencing a labour shortage, with 8.5% of bus driver roles (up from 7.5% in March) in the UK currently vacant.
“We call on the incoming Prime Minister to take immediate action to help the industry solve bus driver shortages.
“This should mirror the effort put into recruiting new HGV drivers and is critical in allowing operators to support communities such as Merthyr Tydfil with necessary service levels.”
The City Deal is a £1.28 billion economic growth and jobs programme involving 10 south Wales councils, while the Region Transport Authority is responsible for coordinating transport planning and investment across the region.
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