Villagers ‘completely cut off’ after cancellation of bus service
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Residents from one small village in Maesteg say they have been left in a state of complete isolation this week, after cancelled bus services from 2019 continue to leave them stranded and unable to travel to the town.
The area of Maesteg Park may only be minutes away from the main town of Maesteg, but with steep hills surrounding it on each side and no regular service, it can for some people feel like a million miles away.
Speaking to residents at a local coffee morning with the Special Families Maesteg group, many describe the impact of the loss of the former 37 Easyway bus, which once connected smaller villages such as Maesteg Park to the town.
The service, along with a number of others was ended after Bridgend Council axed its funding for bus services in 2019 in order to save £148,000, and operators had said the routes were no longer viable due to the withdrawal of local authority funding
Jan Whelan, 72, has lived in Maesteg Park her entire life and says as a result of the cancelled service, the area has become increasingly hard to travel from.
She said: “The situation up here with the buses is absolutely terrible and to be honest since they stopped coming up to Maesteg Park we are completely cut off.
“There used to be the number 37 bus, but since that was cancelled there is no other way to get around other than a taxi. Even then there is only one taxi service, so waiting times can also be quite long for that.
“You also have to consider the cost of pensioners getting taxis every day, particularly in a time when everything else is going up.
“It’s ridiculous. There’s no shops here and not even a cash point, so if you want to get groceries or cash you have to go down into Maesteg town, and doing that has become very difficult.
“It’s only a few minutes down the road but because the hills on all sides of Maesteg Park are very steep, it’s difficult to walk especially for a lot of people here who are aging and literally can’t do it.”
Mary waters, 71, who also lives in Maesteg Park said: “We could have accepted it if they had just limited the service to one an hour or even every few hours, but to take it away completely just left us totally isolated in this part of Maesteg and it’s not fair.
“What makes it worse is that we hear so much from the Welsh Government encouraging us to use public transport yet in this village they have taken it all away from us over the last few years.
“There was even meant to be a service that you would call to come and pick you up, but more often than not it wouldn’t be able to get you for hours which made it unusable for most of us.”
Gillian Tracey, 76, added, “There’s no post office, no cash point, and now since 2019 there’s no bus here either. They’ve really left nothing for us and even though we’ve come out of the pandemic, we feel just as isolated as when we were in lockdown. Maybe the pandemic actually masked it a bit as we had to stay indoors, but now we are out and about again the loss is really more evident.
“If you’ve got a car then it’s fine, but if you haven’t then it can be very difficult to get around. Even things like family visits are hard as they always have to come to you, and it can feel awful when you’re an independent person to be asking for lifts all the time.”
Lynn Burns, 67, says this issue is one that is incredibly important to him as well as all the other elderly residents of Maesteg Park.
He said: “This is a very important issue for the people here but there just seems to be nothing done about it. Before the decision was made to cut the funding to the service and others like it, we warned of the impact it could have on people going to town or to doctors’ appointments, but it just wasn’t heard.
“There’s absolutely no way older or disabled people can walk these hills and the service should never have been stopped. My only hope is that we can keep fighting for it until some sort of service is brought back.”
Councillor Ross Penhale- Thomas was re-elected for the Maesteg West ward at the council elections in 2022. He said: “For me, this is a typical case of knowing the price of something but not the value.
“During the consultation period, I fought alongside residents to retain the bus – even at 50% of its service. It’s clear to see that the bus was a lifeline for many – getting people to town, medical appointments, and meeting with friends.
“I speak to many people in Maesteg Park who tell me they feel completely disconnected and it’s had a huge impact on their well-being and mental health.
“It’s a perfect storm – the lack of a bus, the geography of the area with it being so steep, the only local shop having just closed and the cost-of-living sky-rocketing meaning taxis are a luxury.
“The Welsh Government has ambitious plans for a national bus network and to support public transport – but those proposals seem a million miles away from the reality on the ground here when local people feel isolated and cut off from the rest of their community.
“We need to get back to basics on local transport, and I am determined to work with residents and other partners to explore ways and means in which we can get a bus service back up and running.”
A spokesman from Bridgend Council said: “Bridgend County Borough Council announced in May 2019 that it would no longer be providing a £148,000 subsidy to private bus companies due to massive shortfalls in funding and an urgent need to save £36m over three years.
“The subsidy had been paid previously to ensure that certain poorly used, unprofitable routes with very low levels of passengers could continue to offer a service.
“While there are no current plans to resurrect the subsidy, the council continues to support and work closely with public transport providers as well as organisations such as Bridgend Community Transport who offer services such as town rider and community car schemes.”
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They did the same to Pontyrhyl in the Garw Valley, leaving us stranded with no bus service though. We approached our Councillors, but they were not interested in helping to find a solution. These Councillors seem to come out of the woodwork close to elections
The “change for Bridgend” so called independent councillors up there isn’t it? Their only purpose for existing as I recall is to help the shopkeepers of Bridgend town centre whatever the cost to anyone else. They don’t really care about anything else.
There must be a way to fund reliable public community transport for isolated communities, surely?