Councillors in Newport worries about country-wide bus overhaul

Councillors in Newport have said a Wales-wide overhaul of the bus network could pose “significant risks” in Newport

The Welsh Government is planning new laws to recentralise bus travel under the management of its firm Transport for Wales, with services franchised at a local and regional level.

The move would improve timetabling, ticketing and coordination between services, the government says.

But as the Argus reported last week, Newport council is concerned the plan could take jobs and money away from the city and pose a threat to the future of Newport Bus – of which the local authority is the shareholder.

At a cabinet meeting last week, council leader Jane Mudd told colleagues she agreed with the broad spirit of the government’s vision – to “support and encourage us all to travel more sustainably” – but there were still questions to be answered.

“There is potential for the public sector to have increased financial risk, there’s potential for a reduction in service provision and local accountability, there are potential consequences for home to school transport operations; and with our municipal transport operator [Newport Bus], there are risks to the future of the business,” she said.

“The white paper has limited detail that relates to how these risks would be practically mitigated.”

Cllr Mudd said the local authority was involved in analysis by KPMG to “interrogate” the government’s bus plans and their impact on Newport, reports the Argus.

The city faces further uncertainty because the government had pushed back its plans for new bus legislation until next year, she added.

Ahead of the council meeting, the Welsh Government told the Argus it was “committed to working with local authorities to deliver an improved bus service for communities across Wales”.

Cllr Mudd said “we completely support the improvement of services and improvement of passenger experience within the bus industry”.

“However, at present we do feel more detail and information is needed, to ensure we can all be comfortable with any change, and any changes to services will be beneficial to all stakeholders and communities,” she added.

Ringland representative Laura Lacey, who is also the council’s cabinet member for infrastructure, said she was also worried about the “lack of detail” in the government’s proposals so far, and also raised concerns about a centralising of responsibilities.

“We the local authority have considerable experience in operators in ensuring the provision of public transport,” Cllr Lacey said. “Centralising with Transport for Wales would reduce the capacity and experience of the local authority. In addition, Transport for Wales has limited experience in this overall area.”

She added: “Within the city we have a municipal bus company that is effective and innovative in its approach to service provision, and we would want to ensure Newport Transport is appropriately considered in this consultation.”

The cabinet will now await the outcome of KPMG’s analysis before submitting its response to the Welsh Government consultation.

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