New survey ‘paints a clear picture’ of the decline in bus services
More than 90% of people quizzed in a new survey say bus services have got worse over the last 12 months.
A survey carried out by Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Willams, who represents South Wales West, has revealed that the overwhelming majority of respondents have a negative opinion of bus services in the region.
The survey, which ran between August and the end of November 2023 saw over two hundred responses, most of whom used buses on a regular basis and all of whom were from the local area.
According to the survey 93% of respondents said they had a bad opinion of current bus timetables, 76% said they had a bad opinion on the variety of routes available, and 92% said that bus services have got worse over the last year.
92% of respondents recorded that they felt safe on the bus either all or most of the time.
The Welsh government brought in – and later extended – emergency funding schemes for bus firms during Covid-19 lockdown periods, after stay-at-home restrictions caused passenger numbers to plummet.
But that support was withdrawn in the summer, and bus operators have been axing services as a result.
Cllr Etheridge said local authorities were left wondering how they could “plug the gap” when the current financial year ends.
Ms Williams has previously raised concerns with the First Minister, who said he “wished” more people used the bus, but declining numbers and “competing priorities” meant that funds weren’t currently available.
Sioned Williams said: “The cuts to funding for bus services are leaving communities across Wales devastated – and it’s clear that people in my region have been badly affected. Constituents have previously told me that they’ve had to leave their jobs because of these cuts, and these survey results show that hundreds more have been impacted.
“Bus cuts are disastrous for many – particularly older people, vulnerable groups, poorer communities, and those who live in areas like the valley communities of my region who rely on the bus to get about.
“What’s worse is that once negative opinions have formed about buses – and my survey shows that this is already the case – and once people have found alternative ways of getting to where they need to be, the work to get people back on the bus becomes all that much harder.
“It’s so important that people have a genuine alternative to the car to get to where they need to be. Many people in my region don’t live near a train line, let alone a railway station, and don’t have access to a car, so this makes buses an essential service that must be protected.
“Welsh Government must take action to protect, prioritise and expand bus services, because the people for whom buses are an essential service demand it.”
Julie James, Wales’ minister for climate change, has confirmed that she has asked councils to “work up new regional bus network plans” with Transport for Wales.
In a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), she said the new plans would “identify a priority network” of bus routes for “further support”.
The Welsh Government’s Bus Transition Fund, brought in to replace the Covid-era emergency funding, “ensured many key bus routes are protected”, Ms James added.
The minister said the government wanted to make local bus travel “more attractive and affordable”, and there is the “potential” to introduce flat or capped fares.
But copying England’s £2 capped fare scheme had been “hampered” by a “challenging funding settlement” from Westminster, Ms James said.
The short-term focus in Wales, therefore, would be to “ensure essential bus services are maintained for communities”, she added.
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