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Next steps for the reform of bus services in Wales mapped out

05 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Lee Waters with a T22 bus

The next phase of the Welsh Government’s shake-up of public transport in Wales has been set out by the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters today (5 March).

The newly published ‘Our Roadmap to Bus Reform’  builds on the proposals of the bus white paper, published in March 2022, to radically shake-up the way the public transport system works in Wales.

“We’re moving from a privatised system that puts profit before people towards one that will plan buses and trains together around the needs of passengers”, Mr Waters, the Minister with responsibility for transport said.

‘Franchised contracts’

The current system where bus operators decide where to run services based on where they can maximise profit will be replaced by a system of ‘franchised’ contracts.

Transport for Wales, local Councils and the Welsh Government will work together to design bus networks that link key services and tie up with other buses and with train timetables all using one ticket.

Companies will then be able to bid to run the whole package of routes for an area, not just the ones that are the most profitable.

“This is the most far-reaching set of reforms taking place anywhere in the UK” the Deputy Minister added.

“At the moment using your car is easy but using public transport can feel like a hassle.

“Our aim is to create one joined up network, one integrated timetable which you can access using one ticket. That way we will make it easier to understand how to use public transport, and it will make journeys seamless’’.

Targets

The Roadmap to Bus Reform sets out year by year targets of how the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales plan to approach the delivery of franchising bus services in Wales.

This includes how the government intends to work closely with partners and stakeholders, such as local authorities and bus operators to design and deliver services that are ‘easy to use, easy to access and well connected’ for communities across Wales.

This new approach is set to be rolled out on a geographical basis and will take several years to achieve.

The Deputy Minister added: “This marks a major milestone on our bus reform journey.

“For too long Welsh bus services have been neglected with passenger numbers steadily falling and some bus routes being cut.

“It’s not going to be an easy fix and it’s going to take time, but bus reform is central to creating an integrated public transport network and tackling transport poverty across Wales.

“Connecting up bus, rail, walking and cycling routes we’ll make it easier for people to make more sustainable choices which is essential if we are to hit our ambitious sustainability goals in Wales.

“The steps that we have outlined today puts people before profit and makes the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.”

Signal of intent

Responding to the announcement, Aaron Hill, Director of CPT, the  trade association for the bus and coach sector in Wales said: “This roadmap is a welcome signal of intent from Transport for Wales and Welsh Government, recognising the importance of a strong bus network to the wellbeing of Wales.

“Bus operators across the country have faced huge challenges in recent years, and regulatory change
alone will not change the economic reality of this.

“Our own research published last year shows that a minimum subsidy franchise – as used in Jersey – could strike the right balance between Government control and using the skills and expertise of commercial operators to deliver maximum benefit for the public.

“Whoever controls bus services in Wales, we need carefully managed long-term investment and
policies which encourage people to choose the bus over a car.”

Natasha Asghar MS, the Welsh Conservatives Shadow Transport Minister, said: “Labour’s plans will see the taxpayer on the hook for failing services across Wales.

“Given Transport for Wales’ failures when it comes to our trains, and the Welsh Government’s general incompetence when it comes to all things transport, how on earth can we have any faith that this will be a successful venture?

“Since Labour’s 20mph speed limit policy was introduced, we’ve seen bus routes axed and punctuality drop, so if ministers really want to help the sector, they must ditch their £33m speed limit scheme.

“Not only that, but the Welsh Government must shelve its road building ban so Wales can have a modern transport network for bus services to operate on, which will in turn attract passengers en masse.”


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Geoffrey Harris
Geoffrey Harris
1 month ago

This is good news as Stagecoach is performing badly and I will welcome their downfall, however, the labour party needs to get Caerffili council to review their plans or it will be worse. They plan to close the park and ride, which is alongside the bus and train station and build offices on the site. The result will be a disaster. Definitely a lack of joined up thinking.

Rob jones
Rob jones
1 month ago

Try coming to rural west Wales very limited buses, we don’t all live in Cardiff. Labour only seem to care about the large cities not where the real Welsh people live I lived in Cardiff for a while and it definitely is not Welsh.

Geoffrey Harris
Geoffrey Harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob jones

Absolute nonsense, I was born and bred in Grange town Caerdydd and am Cymro to my core, what we don’t need is people like you causing difficulties where they don’t exist.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob jones

Not Welsh? How so? Do you mean ‘not white’?

By the way, I’m from Pembrokeshire, it is full of people (mostly retired) who identify as ‘not Welsh’.

And also around 80% of the Welsh population lives in the industrial south or northeast.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob jones

Did you ever get out whilst you were living in Cardiff, did you ever walk into a pub on a match day? They cheer on the team in red, and anyone playing against the team in white. Furthermore what is your definition of a ‘real Welsh person’?

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

Why Match day, what about the rest of the Year

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago

“Companies will then be able to bid to run the whole package of routes for an area, not just the ones that are the most profitable.”

The problem is it will still be run by the private sector who will always put profits before service. The bus network should be re-nationalised.

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

How about reviving a service buses used to provide as a sub..provide a delivery/ drop off service and be paid for it as well as carry passengers .and please god somebody who actually stands in our crappy bus stops to design weather proof shelters with seating

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Easy enough to design a “network” It’s putting buses on that network that has presented a challenge that the operators and government have failed to overcome on a lasting basis.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

The one thousand years of English settlement of Sir Benfro didn’t happen overnight…

Immigration into the Iron and Coalfields of South Wales makes for interesting reading…

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
1 month ago

Excellent news. As someone who uses the buses regularly, I am really looking forward to this being rolled out.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Good job Lee Walters has been basically sacked. Bye bye Lee.

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