Posted: Tue 28th Nov 2023

Senedd committee discusses free public transport for under-25s

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Nov 28th, 2023

Public transport should be free for all under-25s, with high ticket costs posing a significant barrier for children and young people, a committee heard.

Members of the Welsh Youth Parliament gave evidence to the Senedd’s petitions committee after surveying more than 1,300 young people.

The committee, chaired by Labour MS Jack Sargeant, is currently considering three petitions centred on public transport in Wales.

Kasia Tomsa highlighted the Youth Parliament’s recent report which urged the Welsh Government to provide free public transport for all under-25s.

The Blaenau Gwent member said: “There are significant affordability issues as well as economic and social inequality preventing us from using public transport and active travel.”

She also identified the frequency, reliability and safety of public transport as key barriers.

Discrimination

Kasia quoted a 12-year-old, from Cardiff, as saying: “I don’t want to get on the bus because there’s a lot of racism and I’m scared of it.”

She also raised comments from a 17-year-old, who said: “I’ve had aggression from people saying comments because I look alternative and ‘gay/trans’ so it makes me a target.”

The student warned that 72% of young people are not aware of schemes such as MyTravelPass which provides a one-third discount for bus services

Kasia, who was giving evidence remotely, said she could not attend the Senedd meeting in-person after trains to Cardiff were cancelled.

Ffion Fairclough, Youth Parliament member for Pontypridd, called for more investment to expand routes, increase the frequency of services and ensure they are more reliable.

Ffion said children and young people in the valleys and rural areas often miss out on the same cultural opportunities as those in cities due to the cost of travel.

During the committee meeting on Monday November 27, she pointed out that the minimum hourly wage for young people is often lower than what it costs them to travel to work.

She also urged Welsh ministers to do more to tackle barriers faced by disabled and neurodivergent children and young people.

Accessibility

Tegan Skyrme, a Youth Parliament member, who represents Learning Disability Wales, said she was born blind and will never be legally able to drive.

“I rely exclusively on public transport to get from A to B,” she told a meeting of the Youth Parliament on Saturday November 25.

“Me and many other disabled people have found that these services let us down time and time again.”

She described assistance to access train services as poor at best in cities and almost non-existent in rural areas.

Tegan raised concerns about the anxiety caused by fear of being abandoned at a railway station or a train being cancelled at the last minute without assistance being rebooked.

Funding

Lee Waters, the deputy minister responsible for transport, has said the Welsh Government does not have the money to make buses free for young people.

Jeremy Miles reiterated the funding pressures as he responded to Saturday’s debate.

He said: “Over the past few years, the funds we have as a government – we’ve had to spend those to ensure the bus network continues at all, for example, due to the impact of Covid.”

Wales’ education minister recognised Tegan’s concerns around accessibility, saying there is a gap between regulations and the reality of disabled people’s experiences.

Mr Miles highlighted plans for bus franchising across Wales, which he explained would provide the tools for regulating the network.

By Chris Haines – ICNN Senedd Reporter

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