Calls for local authorities to be given control over bus services
Calls have been made for local authorities in Wales to be given control over bus services amid claims communities are being left isolated.
It follows the withdrawal of a number of routes in Flintshire in the last few years, as well as regular changes being made to timetables by private bus companies.
Most recently, there has been anger after Arriva announced plans to stop the number 12 service between Chester and Mold because they said it was no longer commercially viable.
A public meeting in Mancot last week was attended by more than 100 residents, who were concerned by the firm’s decision to bring it to a halt from the end of April.
Senior figures at Flintshire Council have voiced their frustration at the lack of consultation by companies when routes are withdrawn.
They are now hoping a transport review being carried out by the Welsh Government will lead to them being granted greater powers.
Speaking at a meeting of the authority’s Labour-led administration, Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for Streetscene and countryside, said people were being left cut off because of the loss of bus services.
Speaking at County Hall in Mold today, she said: “A review is desperately needed to save bus transport and Welsh Government are looking at using their devolved powers to revise legislation to regulate bus service provision and give local authorities powers to be able to run their own bus services, which is something I would really welcome.
“It’s getting more difficult as commercial operators are making strict business decisions to only run efficient and commercially viable services, leaving some areas cut off.
“This impacts on the vulnerable, the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford their own car.
“We have been attending many highly emotional meetings and some of them have been packed.”
She added: “It’s important for people to remain independent, mobile and active and even if funds are tight they’re willing to pay for the bus service.
“It’s a challenge for us as we review transport here in Flintshire and it will be a big challenge for Welsh Government.”
The UK’s bus network was privatised in the mid-1980s, which saw councils lose the ability to control and regulate services.
Companies are only currently required to provide 56 days’ notice to the Traffic Commissioner if they intend to stop or alter a route.
During the meeting, cabinet members approved the authority’s response to a Welsh Government White Paper on public transport.
The consultation document outlines potential new powers for councils, including the ability to either franchise bus services or run their own on a larger scale than is currently possible.
Council leader Aaron Shotton said the review was “long overdue”.
He said: “Thirty four years since the privatisation and deregulation of bus services by the Thatcher government, we can see locally in Flintshire that at a number of public meetings (there is) a misunderstanding.
“Since deregulation bus services are run by private companies and there are no powers for local authorities to regulate.
“For that reason, this particular consultation is important.
“I believe the principle of councils being allowed to once again run bus services is a step which is long overdue.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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