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New report recommends buses should be exempt from 20mph default speed limit

21 Nov 2023 5 minute read
Photo by Jeremy Segrott and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Emily Price

A new report has recommended that buses in Wales’ cities should be exempt from the 20mph default speed limit in order to make public transport more competitive compared to driving a car.

The ‘Fare outcomes – Understanding Transport in Wales’s Cities’ report form the Centre for Cities looked at the Welsh Government’s goal 45% of journeys being made by public transport, walking and cycling by 2040.

Centre for Cities is a charity and a research and policy institute which looks at how to improve the economic success of UK cities and large towns.

The report looked at the roles different parts of Wales will play in increasing public transport usage and the policies required to help make this happen.

It explored the challenges facing public transport in four Welsh cities – Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham and asked why the car continues to dominate.

One of the recommendations detailed in the report suggested that buses in city bus lanes are made exempt from the Wales’ controversial new 20mph default speed limit.

It recommended: “The local authorities should exempt bus lanes from the new 20mph speed limit when they find it safe and appropriate.

“This could make public transport more competitive against the car and increase the benefits of building new bus lanes.

“By restricting these speed exemptions only to bus lanes, this should not create a safety issue with other modes of transport.”

Since 2008, rail ridership has been increasing in Wales but this has been dwarfed by the decline in bus use.

Rail passengers rose by 4.3 million a year between 2008 and 2019, while the local bus passengers fell by 34.3 million a year in the same period.

The report, which was commissioned by TUC, found that bus fares rose above inflation at the same time as ridership declined and Wales was noted as the nation where bus supply declined the most in the UK in the last 15 years.

Researchers found that despite some local authorities having their own bus operators, bus regulation is likely to have “affected Wales negatively” as metrics around fares and the supply of services show the “overall weakening” of public transport in Wales.

The report also recommended assessing how bus franchising – proposed in a last year’s white paper – could improve on the current deregulated system in parts of Wales, and how it might be funded.

Research suggested the biggest potential for increasing public transport lies in Wales’ capital thanks to its size and its high share of jobs located in the city centre.

It suggested evaluating different revenue options currently under consideration by Cardiff City Council with the recommendation of implementing a £3 congestion charge in a small area of the city centre.

The report stated: “The number of hours lost to congestion makes the city poorer, leaves workers with less time for housework and leisure, and makes air quality worse.

“Public transport improvements may not be enough to reduce congestion alone. Research on this topic is mixed.  As a result, the congestion charge being discussed is a step in the right direction.”

The report also recommended that the Welsh Government ask the UK Government for powers to raise fuel duty and use revenue to support public transport services.

Feasible

It stated: “According to the ONS, a fuel duty freeze will cost the UK Exchequer £15.1 billion between 2023/24 and 2027/2028, more than the funds the UK Government has allocated to the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements until 2031.

“The Welsh Government would receive around £500 million from that total if it accounts for the same amount of fuel duty revenue as it does in terms of GVA (3.4 per cent).

The report also suggested the Welsh Government introduce a workplace parking levy in cities to “directly disincentivising driving” and channel the revenue towards public transport improvements.

Paul Swinney, Director of Policy and Research at Centre for Cities, said: “The Welsh Government has set an ambitious target of increasing public transport ridership and active travel to the point where they make up 45 per cent of all journeys.

“Some parts of Wales are better placed to help the nation achieve this than others. It’s hard to get people out of their cars in rural areas where there are few alternatives. But it should be much more feasible in its urban areas, especially in and around Cardiff.

“And it will require a range of interventions that are all geared towards making public transport the most convenient option. This will require investment in building new stations and stops for example, and considering whether, where safe to do so, exempting buses from the 20mph limit.”

“Unacceptable”

Commenting on the report, Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, Natasha Asghar MS said: “It is undeniable that the Labour Government is waging a war on Welsh motorists and this report gives Labour all the excuses they need to enact their attacks.

“Road charging, workplace parking charges and raising fuel duty for Welsh motorists is completely unacceptable.

“People should not be punished for driving their car. The Labour Government is all stick and no carrot, with workers being let down by unreliable and expensive public transport. If Labour act on the recommendations it will paint a worryingly dystopian future for Wales.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have been clear from the outset that we would monitor any impacts of the 20mph on bus services. We are working closely with bus operators, local authorities and TfW to tackle the challenges the industry is facing.

“Dedicated bus lanes and simple measures at traffic lights and at junctions help to unblock congestion and give buses an extra boost in traffic black spots, making journeys more viable and reliable. We have also made £6m available this year, and £5m available next year for bus priority measures.

“There are no plans to introduce congestion charges on trunk roads in Wales.”


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Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago

Cons failed London mayor candidate going “war on motorist” again. They rolled this out along with a load of other conspiracy idea’s at the national conference. A trope that will be rolled out time and again leading up to the election but failing to mention the real war such as fuel prices (taxed twice on that), repairs, tyre costs, insurances taking a massive increase. They always fail to mention those costs and the press need to hold them to it. I just had a 4 day holiday around Wales, drove. 20mph had absolutely no impact and I passed through quite… Read more »

Jackie Aitken
Jackie Aitken
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

A 4 day holiday? Lucky you, try doing it 24/7, it’s a bloody nightmare

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago
Reply to  Jackie Aitken

Much like the 20mph where I live, in Wales.
Three parts of sod all issues.
24/7.
No nightmares.
None.
Nothing.

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Bless little Natasha.
She seems to forget in that there London, which she tried to become Mayor of, has buses AND 20mph zones, both together in some parts.

I’ve driven the London 20mph zones and used London buses in those zones too.
I’m still here to tell the tale. I did not notice any issues.

Llyn
Llyn
5 months ago

Natasha Asghar MS said: “Road charging, workplace parking charges and raising fuel duty for Welsh motorists is completely unacceptable”. Please can someone help me and let me know where any of this is happening in Wales?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
5 months ago
Reply to  Llyn

It isn’t, it is deliberate misinformation from the tories.

And, as far as I’m aware, fuel duty isn’t devolved in any case. Again more deliberate misinformation.

Shifter
Shifter
5 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

No its not its in labour’s report for the M4 and A470 road pricing and when that starts it will be in Cardiff in oo time and labour supposed to be for the working classes the way it’s going we could be better off under the tories ie in England a working person can go into a shop and buy a pack of larger for 12 pounds the same larger in Wales is 17 pounds + so i think the tories are for the working clases not labour but it might change in England next year the so called party… Read more »

CapM
CapM
5 months ago
Reply to  Shifter

“a pack of larger for 12 pounds “
What’s a “pack of larger”?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
5 months ago
Reply to  CapM

I think he’s referring to minimum alcohol pricing, which I think is a good thing. Clearly he’s one of these people who likes to get off his face on gutrot booze. Preferably in a park.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
5 months ago
Reply to  Shifter

Tories for the working class? Now that’s what I call deluded.

Not heard ANYTHING about road pricing on Wales which makes me think that you’ve been mislead by tory propaganda and outright lies.

And let me re-state the bleeding obvious- fuel duty ISN’T devolved so don’t blame the Weldh government for that one.

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Yeah, we pay tax twice on petrol.
Set by the treasury.
The UK treasury that is, as you say, not Wales. Fuel duty and VAT.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

The plans for congestion charges for Cardiff have been reported on widely. There is even information on likely exemptions. It is coming.

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
5 months ago
Reply to  Shifter

How much would an unemployed person in England pay for “a pack of larger”?

Jonathan Stanway
Jonathan Stanway
5 months ago
Reply to  Llyn

gov.wales
https://www.gov.wales › filesPDF
National Transport Delivery Plan 2022 to 2027 – gov.wales

Go and read that, it’s all in there, road charging framework etc.

It’s not made up, it’s Welsh Labour Party policy

Whether it’s a good thing or not can be debated, but it is fact that it’s party policy

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
5 months ago

Road charging to be introduced as a last resort in areas where 50mph zones fail to improve air quality – and then only on certain sections of the M4.

Hardly a comprehensive i.e. all-Wales road charging scheme. But to hear the whining tories you would have thought it was going to be rolled out across Wales imminently.

Sospan
Sospan
5 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Read labour manifesto 1984 comes to mind! In wales we have had 20 around schools etc for years but now it’s in areas where its not necessary and the road speeds changed from 30 20 40 20 30 over a distance of just 2 miles so you are constantly checking your speed causing queues where there were none before and this is a rural area we only get one bus an hour which don’t fit in with working hours and schools .Wales is mostly rural and what works in cities doesn’t doesn’t work for all !

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
5 months ago

Road charging will be UK wide, as electric vehicles take over it is the only feasible way that the government can replace revenue from Fuel duty and VAT on fuel. Likely to be demand based as well. As well as London’s charges, Durham, Birmingham and Bath have charges for all or some vehicles already, all governments local or national are looking at such schemes. If a UK wide road charging scheme comes in would expect that it will first only apply to new vehicles so that after 20 years pratically every vehicle would pay in that way. Cons or Labour… Read more »

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
5 months ago

The recommendation from the Centre for Cities that bus lanes should be exempt from the 20mi/h speed limit is ill-advised and impractical, with negative safety implications for other users of those lanes, notably cyclists. While I have every confidence in the judgement of professional drivers (buses, taxis), the notion of different speed limit for different classes of traffic on those rare occasions and locations when ‘safe and appropriate’ is fatuous and socially divisive. It is likely to have negligible overall impact on the objective of making ‘public transport more competitive compared to driving a car’. We must first recognise that… Read more »

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
5 months ago

Yes because buses travelling at 30mph are famously less dangerous than cars travelling at 30mph.
Except they are not. 20mph is no hardship

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
5 months ago

The headline is misleading and resembles clickbait.

It is bus LANES that should be exempt.

Glen
Glen
5 months ago

I clocked a bus in a 20mph zone last week that was traveling at a constant 24/27 mph.

Why vote
Why vote
5 months ago

So, let me get this right, after all the polling to get the answer the SENNEDD wanted all the meetings in government supposedly debating all the implications of the outcome of introducing 20mph we end up with a suck it and see approach of let’s make it LAW and tinker with it as its rolling out. What have the welsh people paid a lot of money for?? This appears to be an ill conceived badly though out plan from the start. Exactly how are busses going to do 30mph when all other vehicles are doing 20mph most of wales does… Read more »

Chris
Chris
5 months ago

This might work with bus lanes but hardly going to make a big difference when they have to follow other cars. You only need one car to drive at 20 or below to cause delays

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
5 months ago

Cambridge has a very interesting bus scheme, guided busways, I think following old railway routes. There are many places where such routes could be built in Wales to avoid congestion, for example the railway through Splott to the Cardiff City Centre has a lot of space to either side of the tracks and buses from the suburbs could avoid Newport Road. Such guided busways do not need a urban speed limit.

Robert Morgan
Robert Morgan
5 months ago

20 mph no exception stupid idea anyway

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
5 months ago

I see nothing in this report that would make a substantial difference to gridlocked Cardiff.

Rich
Rich
5 months ago

Busses exempt, well that just makes even more of a farce of it all.

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