Posted: Thu 23rd May 2024

Free transport for young people could ‘alleviate child poverty in Wales’, Senedd committee finds

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Free transport for young people would help alleviate child poverty and the cost of living pressures faced by families across Wales.

That is the conclusion of the Senedd’s Petition Committee, which is today calling on the Welsh Government to work with the transport industry now to begin discussions on how the scheme would work.

A report released by the committee today was sparked by a petition and public campaign and drawing on the work of the Welsh Youth Parliament.

It concludes that the ambition to introduce free public transport for young people is feasible and would have a positive effect on society by helping to alleviate child poverty and the cost of living pressures faced by families across Wales.

Last year, research by the Child Poverty Action Group found the minimum annual transport cost for sending a child to secondary school to be nearly £500.

Almost 75 per cent of over a thousand young people surveyed said they would take public transport more often if it was free.

In addition to taking evidence from transport experts, the Committee spoke to Welsh Youth Parliament Members and referenced their report ‘Sustainable Ways’ which investigated the issue last year.

Ffion Fairclough, speaking to the Committee as a Member of the Welsh Youth Parliament, said: “If public transport is seen as inconvenient, either because of reliability or price, then people will choose to use the car instead.

“More should be invested in public transport to increase the numbers of people using it, and part of this investment should be a free service for people under 25.

“If a scheme like this was introduced, younger people would not only benefit socially, but it would also open up more work opportunities.

“The minimum wage for apprentices or those aged 16-17 is only £6.40 per hour, while a return journey from Pontypridd to Cardiff is nearly £9.”

Calls for free transport for young people have also come from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes in her most recent annual report; and from the then Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe in November 2022.

The Committee looked closely at a similar, highly successful, scheme in Scotland which has provided over 100 million free bus journeys to people under 22 years old since its inception two years ago and could serve as a blueprint for Wales.

The current financial pressures that the Welsh Government faces are acknowledged, but the report argues that preparation work for the policy should still be done.

Jack Sargeant MS, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said, “Free public transport for young people has the potential to be a transformative policy that would alleviate the cost of living for families, support our climate ambitions and help the post-pandemic recovery of the bus sector.

“Members of the Welsh Youth Parliament spoke to us passionately about the challenges young people face when using public transport and experts across many sectors all agreed on the benefits this scheme could bring.

“This policy is an investment in our youth, an investment in a greener future, and a step towards reducing our reliance on cars. Finances are tight at the moment, but it’s time for the Welsh Government to take decisive action towards making public transport accessible for all young people in Wales.”

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