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Investment in off-peak bus services boosts passenger numbers

11 May 2024 3 minute read
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Liam Randall, local democracy reporter

An investment of £200,000 to improve bus services has led to an increase in passengers, new figures have shown.

Wrexham Council’s executive board agreed funding last year to provide more bus services during evenings and Sunday.

The scheme was launched by the local authority in partnership with Arriva Bus Wales in December, with reduced fares in place for the first month.

New routes

A total of nine new routes were introduced between Wrexham and areas such as Caia Park, Hightown, Penycae, Minera and Borras.

A combined total of 14,875 passengers used the services between December 2023 and March this year, according to figures contained in a report to councillors.

Cllr David A Bithell, the local authority’s lead member for transport, said the money was aimed at helping bus passenger numbers return to pre-Covid pandemic levels.

He said: “In May 2023, Wrexham County Borough Council identified £200,000 for investment in local bus services in the 2023/24 financial year.

“Following executive board approval in July 2023, and a subsequent procurement exercise a number of new evening and Sunday timetables were introduced in December 2023, coinciding with the start of the festive period in the city centre.

“In year one, we are building upon our existing network by investing in increased evening and weekend services, which may open up local bus services for new users. To date, since December 2023, patronage continues to build.

“The first phase of the Wrexham Council’s financial investment into bus services has been delivered within the approved £200,000 budget.”

He added: “A further £200,000 has been approved in the 2024/25 budget.

“The continued investment in local bus services entering into year two of the process proposes to review and consolidate the local network, investing in improving connectivity for our more rural, and less connected outlying communities, building upon the existing limited daytime timetables.”

Emergency bus funding scheme 

An emergency bus funding scheme was previously launched by the Welsh Government to support bus operators during and after the Covid pandemic.

However, the initiative was brought to an end in March after four years, despite figures showing the majority of bus services have still not returned to pre-pandemic numbers.

During the 2022/23 financial year, there were a total of 61 million bus passengers in Wales, compared to 91.7 million in 2019/20.

The devolved government has therefore allocated an extra £5.6m to maintain bus services in North Wales for the current year of 2024/25.

Discussing how it will be spent locally, Cllr Bithell said: “Wrexham Council has undertaken a procurement exercise during February and March 2024 to obtain submissions of timetable proposals to fill gaps identified within the commercial bus network.

“The analysis and evaluation of the tender submissions has been a complex and time-consuming process due to many varying price options, and alternative timetable proposals submitted for consideration.

“Contracts and tender arrangements are still to be completely finalised and this is unlikely to be completed until the end of June.

“Officers across the region will continue to work to mitigate and manage any budget risk as we progress through the current financial year and the impact on any loss of bus service is considered to be low.”

The report will be discussed by members of Wrexham’s homes and environment scrutiny committee when they meet on Wednesday (May 15, 2024).


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jim
jim
10 days ago

So in 2023/24 it’s about £13 per passenger. Cheaper to get each one a taxi.

Surely there are better ways to spend £200k?

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