Council steps in to temporarily save local bus service
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Neath Port Talbot Council has agreed to step in and provide funding for two free shuttle vehicles in the borough, to act as a temporary solution to the cancellation of two services by a local transport company.
It comes after the Welsh Government’s Bus Emergency Scheme, designed to keep vital bus services across Wales running throughout the pandemic, ended in July, leading a number of bus routes across the country to be reduced or in some cases scrapped altogether.
Shortly after the announcement, local service operator in Neath Port Talbot South Wales Transport informed the council that from Saturday, July 22, it would no longer run the 202 Service from Neath to Port Talbot and Port Talbot to Neath, as well as the 204 which runs from Neath to Caewathan and Caewathan to Neath.
Additional school services to Cefn Saeson Comprehensive were also cancelled, with Councillor Peter Richards of Baglan previously describing the situation as critical for some residents who used the services for hospital appointments.
He said: “I want to put on record the critical situation my community finds itself in. This decision is going to take a bus away from us, a critical service for the hospital, so residents in my community will not have access to the hospital. The only access they can have is via taxi so it is a real difficult situation.”
It led to a number of discussions between Neath Port Talbot Council and the Welsh Government, with a temporary solution eventually being found to keep a free service running on the route, operated by Forge Travel.
Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council Steve Hunt said he was grateful to have this funding to keep the service running, though highlighted the need to find a permanent solution in the future.
He said: “Together with Chief Executive Karen Jones and other council representatives I attended a packed public meeting in Briton Ferry on the evening of Friday, July 14, to find what this would mean to our residents.
“A number of them were in tears as they told us of their fears about not being able to attend hospital appointments, not being able to visit friends, get to work or go shopping – residents, learners and businesses will all be severely disadvantaged.
“We worked hard to come up with the temporary alternatives in a short space of time and we will continue to work with local transport companies in search of a permanent solution.
“I have spoken publicly about the need for more certainty from the Welsh Government about its continued funding of public bus services and will continue to lobby for this while being grateful for the funding for this temporary arrangement from Welsh Government.”
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