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Last ditch attempts made to save vital Bwcabus service

26 Oct 2023 4 minute read
The fflecsi Bwcabus service. Photo TfW

Local Plaid Cymru politicians have led last ditch efforts urging the Welsh Government to save the vital fflecsi Bwcabus service, which is due to be scrapped at the end of this month.

The fflecsi Bwcabus (previously Bwcabus) has been operating for 14 years, serving rural parts of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire.

It provides an essential service for many residents without access to cars or the main public transport network to reach other villages and towns for work, shopping, and medical treatment.

Termination of service

However, in late September 2023 the Welsh Government unexpectedly announced that the funding for the service would be cut – providing only 4 weeks’ notice to users and politicians of the termination of the service.

The announcement of the loss of the service has led to disarray locally – with many frequent bus users fearing the impact the scrapping of the bus will have on their ability to access medical appointments, work, and other commitments.

Earlier this month in the Senedd, Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales tabled an urgent Senedd question urging the Welsh Government to reinstate funding, meanwhile a petition opposing the termination of the Bwcabus has gained over 1,750 signatories.

The strength of feeling about the loss of the service was further displayed in a public meeting in Llandysul last week, organised by Elin Jones MS and Ben Lake MP.

Almost one hundred residents, together with local councillors, were present to discuss the situation – sharing experiences of how the loss of the valued service will impact their lives.

Emotional accounts were heard from longstanding bus-users, who were reliant on the service to reach weekly medical and physiotherapy appointments, whilst others would have to reconsider their employment commitments because of the sudden decision to scrap the service.

Harmful effect

Experiences from the meeting were relayed directly to the Welsh Government in the Senedd this week, as Cefin Campbell MS again challenged Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS on Bwcabus’ future.

Repeating calls for the Welsh Government to reconsider the decision, he also pressed for a meeting to discuss the situation further. Mr Campbell said: “What became clear to us that evening in Llandysul was the harmful effect the scrapping of this service is going to have on the lives of real people.

“These weren’t e-mails, but lived evidence of how people suffering from epilepsy can’t attend clinics; people who are reliant on physiotherapy on a weekly basis unable to attend their clinics and hospitals, not being able to do the weekly shop; some talking about having to cease employment because they wouldn’t be able get to that place of employment.

“So, within four weeks you decided to end that service. Talk about a cliff edge for people who have to plan their personal futures.”

Commenting following Mr Campbell’s question, Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for Ceredigion added: “Last week’s public meeting in Llandysul reflected the strength of feeling locally towards the invaluable service Bwcabus provides for so many residents – young and old.

“To lose this service – and that at such short notice – is a huge concern locally, and there is a very real danger many residents will be left stranded as this service is scrapped – with taxis scarce and expensive, and no other forms of public transport in place.

“I continue to work alongside colleagues, councillors, community transport organisations and Welsh Government in the hope a solution can be reached.”

In his response, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS said:

“I value the Bwcabus service, and it’s been the inspiration for the Fflecsi service that we’re now trialling in other parts of Wales, so I need no convincing of the value of the model.

“I don’t think passenger numbers were very strong. It’s interesting that 100 people turned up at a meeting; it would be interesting to know how many of those were regular users of it.

“People often don’t want to lose a service, but the very same people often don’t support the service. So I think a thing we all need to reflect on as we look at the future of buses is how can we encourage more people to use those services.

“We are funding very significantly the TrawsCymru service through Ceredigion, which is an excellent service, with modern electric buses, with low fares, and it is very popular.

“So, we are putting a lot of investment into bus services in rural Wales. Very sadly, because of the funding situation we face in the short term, we were not able to replace the EU funding that has been taken away, and that, I’m afraid, is a fact that there is no easy answer to.”

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