Support our Nation today - please donate here
Opinion

Not in Service: Is the Welsh Government failing bus users?

20 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Photo TfW

Andrew Jenkins

I catch buses every day.

I catch a bus to get to work and take my son to school. I catch a bus to go to the shops or visit a local attraction. I catch a bus to meet a friend, to go to the cinema or to do some volunteering. Having access to good bus services is essential for me.

However, I have become increasingly frustrated with the way in which buses are not recognised for the essential service that they are.

That’s not to say they aren’t spoken about. When bus services are threatened with cuts, then they get some attention. When a Minister wishes to talk about more sustainable forms of transport, they will include references to buses in their strategies and boast about the amount of funding they are putting into the network.

Despite these warm words, action from various levels of government in Wales often leaves a lot to be desired.

Earlier this year, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, announced that funding for the Bus Emergency Scheme was coming to an end. He later announced a new package of money – the Bus Transition Fund. That didn’t stop 10% of services being axed over the summer, with more on the way.

The Deputy Minister, as well as the First Minister, in response to various questions asked by Members of the Senedd representing Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats referred to passenger numbers as one of the key challenges facing the bus service.

In short, passenger numbers have not recovered from the pandemic, leading to a reliance on funding that the Welsh Government can no longer afford.

Truth is, I agree with that completely.

Recovery plan

That’s why I launched a petition in February that is still being worked on by the Petitions Committee, that didn’t just call for an extension of funding but also a national recovery plan for buses. I wanted this plan to be co-produced by Welsh Government, local authorities, bus operators and bus users, in order to bring people back onto buses and reduce reliance on emergency funding.

It’s also why years ago I asked my local authority to get involved with what was then called Catch the Bus Week. Year after year I wrote to the authority, to councillors, to MPs and MSs asking them to lend their support to campaigns to encourage bus patronage.

Year after year I was left disappointed.

Despite the recognised challenges and the steady stream of strategies suggesting public transport is prioritised, I am left disappointed again. September is Catch the Bus Month, and even though the Deputy Minister called for a campaign to encourage bus usage, he has sadly not uttered one word of support for the Catch the Bus campaign.

There is plenty of research out there that show the benefit of buses to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of our communities, but I see it every day. I speak to my regular bus driver, I speak to other passengers who each have their own reasons for regularly getting the bus. Many of them have no alternative form of transport, and without the bus their lives would change enormously.

At the moment I feel that the Welsh Government, and politicians of all parties are not doing enough to deliver a more comprehensive and sustainable bus network. Soon Catch the Bus Month will be over and it’ll be too late for them to get involved, but it won’t be too late for them to get onboard and show real leadership.

Buses are in crisis. As a bus user, I just want to ask those in positions of responsibility – are you going to help?


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David
David
9 months ago

If buses are running only half full on certain routes. Why doesn’t the company use mini buses for those routes?

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
9 months ago
Reply to  David

When Arriva used mini-buses around Wrexham some 15 yrs ago it did nothing to drive passenger use, cramped, difficult to get on and off when crowded, uncomfortable, overall a depressing experience.

Andrew Jenkins
Andrew Jenkins
9 months ago
Reply to  David

I think it’s because passenger numbers will fluctuate throughout the day – at peak times that bus may be full while only half full or less at other times. It doesn’t make financial sense for the bus company to swap buses between large and small, especially when most of the fixed costs (driver, fuel, insurance, maintenance etc.) remain mostly the same.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
9 months ago

i too am a regular bus user, and it’s my primary mode for travel for anything more than a short walk, as I have no car. I live in Cardiff, for which I am somewhat thankful, but the service provided by Cardiff Bus leaves a lot to be desired. I live just outside the city centre, and usually catch buses on Newport Road, so I usually have a pretty good selection of buses I can use. I use the Cardiff Bus app, so I am always aware of when a bus is due, and can always ensure that I have… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Public transport is just a figment of Lee Waters’ imagination…

Last edited 9 months ago by Mab Meirion
Andrew Jenkins
Andrew Jenkins
9 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

On your question “why weren’t public transport users placed front and centre where public transport planning is concerned?” This is something that I feel is all too common, across many service areas in many parts of Wales. There is a very welcome move over the last couple of decades to see service users as partners who have valuable experiences and insights that can be harnessed to improve a service. It’s mostly been talked about in health and social care settings (although, in my opinion, no where near embedded enough in practice) and in some other service areas. Bus users don’t… Read more »

Gavin
Gavin
9 months ago

If the WAG had an ounce of sense they would sort out the public transport system in Wales before trying to force motorists off the road under the guise of saving 6 lives a year. Buses are expensive, unreliable and the service is sparse off the main routes. Maybe then some would be more likely to use the trains and buses.

R Jones
R Jones
9 months ago

Has any research been done on bus usage? I use buses all the time but most of my fellow passengers are elderly, or women, or not wealthy . Are those people important to politicians?

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
9 months ago

Our political leaders treat us as cash cows only. If we comment on them we are a terrorist…I do not jest !

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

The country is a playground for little politicians to indulge themselves at our expense, from Waters to Dowden flying a 150 seat troop carrier to New York…

My brother is getting to know Argentina, he tells me that in the cities the only people with any wealth are the politicians the rest are dirt poor and are fearful to leave their homes…

Is that to be our future too…

Last edited 9 months ago by Mab Meirion
Michael Alan Cridland
Michael Alan Cridland
9 months ago

I’m not surprised that my comment was not approved, quite brutal, even for me! Not as brutal as the brutal truth for those who use the bus, bad in the cities, but and atrocious for those in the country, where their services are cancelled or non existent. People are late for work, they miss hospital appointments, they wait for hours for buses that never turn up! Then what is more brutal is the indifference those who are responsible seemed to be almost indifferent to those who suffer, either because they feel that the Welsh Government is responsible because funding. You… Read more »

LindaJones
LindaJones
9 months ago

In my experience Cardiff Bus is failing on all levels. Its expensive, unreliable and non existent at certain times of the day.
I have complained about the service on many occasions to my local Llandaf North councillors. One asserted Cardiff Bus is nothing to do with the council, fact its owned by Cardiff Council seems to have escaped him. It turned out the same councillor was on the Board of Cardiff Bus. So much for the calibre of Cardiff Councillors and the service they provide.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.