Fears ending emergency bus funding will see services “slashed or even shut down”
Emergency funding introduced to help keep bus services running in Wales throughout the pandemic will come to an end this summer.
The Welsh Government have confirmed that Bus Emergency Scheme (BES) will continue
However following extensive discussions, the Welsh Government announced in February that it would be extended for an initial transitional period of three months to the end of June 2023.
The announcement by the Welsh Government means that that BES will now continue until 24 July 2023 to allow school transport to continue as normal.
Passenger numbers have yet to return to the their pre-pandemic levels with politicians raising concerns that the withdrawal of support funding for bus companies could see the number of routes in Wales significantly reduced.
Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales, Llyr Gruffydd said that pulling the “essential” funding would be “catastrophic” for people in the region who rely on bus services.
The party are now calling for the Welsh Government to extend the emergency scheme for at least 18 months, to provide certainty and give bus providers the time to plan ahead.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, Natasha Asghar MS warned that the move would be “detrimental” for remote and rural parts of Wales.
Natasha Asghar MS said: “It is incredibly disappointing to see that despite the bus industry’s warnings, the Labour Government will be cancelling this vital support, when the UK Conservative Government has capped trips at £2 to encourage people back onto public transport.
“So many services will not have to face the cliff edge imposed on them in July and many parts of Wales will see services slashed or even shut down.
“This will be particularly detrimental for remote areas of Wales that are already suffering from poor transport links.
“Labour apparently had £150 million to spend on a road to nowhere, £100 million for more politicians and a £155 million underspend to send back to the UK Government.
“Yet somehow, they can’t afford a fraction of that amount to save vital bus services.”
Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters said the Welsh Government has spent over £150 million since 2020 to help keep bus services running.
He said: “I can confirm we will extend BES for a further three week period to the end of this academic year.
“The scheme will now run to 24th July 2023. This will mean that school transport will continue as normal.
“It will also provide further stability for the industry while we work on the transition away from emergency style funding to plan bus networks which better suit the new travel patterns we have seen since the end of the pandemic.
“In addition, I have asked TfW, local authorities and the Community Transport Association to establish regional network planning teams to understand the impact of the ending of BES and to resolve the network issues that are likely to arise from the change in funding regime.
“This will help optimise the network and maintain as much reach and access as possible.
“We will continue to meet regularly and work closely together and with other partners to build a strong and sustainable bus network for Wales.
“The Welsh Government will continue to work with Local Authorities and bus operators to maximise the funding available for the remainder of the financial year and will provide an update in due course. This will need to act as a bridge to our franchising plans.
“To help deliver the Welsh Government’s ambitious plan to reform bus services in Wales, One Network, One Timetable, One Ticket, I have asked Jonathan Bray, outgoing Director of the Urban Transport Group, to lead a panel of experts providing advice on putting that plan into practice. Membership of the panel will be announced in due course.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com