Welsh Government needs to protect municipal bus companies, says Cardiff Council

Welsh Government plans to improve bus services across Wales are being considered by Cardiff Council.

The government’s White Paper consultation, “One network, one timetable, one ticket: planning buses as a public service for Wales”, sets out proposals designed to grow the bus network, meet public needs, maximise value for public investment in bus services, and break the reliance on private cars.

A report to Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will recommend the council responds positively to the consultation while highlighting areas of concern the council feels need addressed, including;

  • More information around long-term funding plans;
  • More clarity on support for municipal bus companies which often operate less well-used routes, avoided by private sector companies chasing profit margins;
  • Consideration of school transport arrangements currently not covered in the consultation; and
  • Introduction of measures which ensure local councils are best placed to determine how local bus routes are delivered linking in with plans for park and rides and smart corridors.

Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Dan De’Ath, said: “Welsh Government’s consultation on improving bus services across Wales ties in with many of our own ideas about transforming public transport. It’s trying to find ways in which bus services can be improved, delivering better, cleaner, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly services which give people a real opportunity to break their reliance on the motor car.

“We want to see bus user numbers double in Cardiff by 2030. To do that we will need to work with partners, including Welsh Government, to radically improve bus transport and – there’s a lot in this consultation which could help us achieve that.

“However, there are also a great number of unanswered questions around long-term funding, protection for municipal bus companies, support for non-profitable routes, and just how local authorities will, in practice, be given an opportunity to exert control over the design of local bus networks. All of these are important matters which need resolved.

“Bus patronage has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels and if we are to get people out of their cars then there is much work to be done to convince them that buses will be quicker, cheaper and better for the environment than taking the car. This is why we want to find a way of introducing a £1 standard bus fare. We trialled this in the run up to Christmas and the feedback we received was very positive. It could be a game changer when it comes to growing bus usage.

“Any Wales-wide bus strategy will therefore need to be carefully considered and funded if it is to succeed. We need assurances regarding the funding of bus services and the supporting infrastructure needed to grow bus patronage moving forward and we also need assurances from Welsh Government that the reforms will include a fail-safe mechanism to protect the interests of Cardiff’s Municipal Bus Company, Cardiff Bus. Right now Cardiff Bus enjoys significant coverage in the wider Cardiff area but the White Paper makes no observations on how, or if, market share in the council’s area could or indeed should be protected under a franchise situation. While the White paper encourages municipal ownership it makes no reference to the very real challenges that UK competition law could bring.”

The Cabinet will review officer recommendations at its next meeting On Thursday June 23 when it will look to agree a response to the consultation. Cardiff Council’s Environmental Scrutiny Committee will also consider the White Paper at its next meeting on Thursday, June 16.

The Welsh Government White Paper consultation response deadline is 24thJune 2022 and can be accessed here:https://gov.wales/one-network-one-timetable-one-ticket-planning-buses-public-service-wales

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