Posted: Thu 22nd Feb 2024

Welsh Government challenged over Arriva bus services in North Wales in face of 20mph speed limits

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

The provision of bus services in North Wales has come under the spotlight in the Welsh Parliament on Wednesday.

Mark Isherwood, Member of the Senedd (MS) for North Wales, challenged the Welsh Government regarding the sustainability and funding of bus franchising in the region, amidst a backdrop of service changes brought about by the default 20mph speed limit.

The issue was first brought to attention in the Senedd last month when Mr Isherwood questioned Lee Waters MS the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with responsibility for Transport, about Arriva Bus Wales’ claims.

The company had stated its reluctance to alter services but felt compelled due to the operational delays caused by the new 20mph speed limit, leading to route curtailments and frequency reductions.

In the Senedd Chamber on Wednesday, Mr Isherwood raised the issue again and asked the Deputy Minister what engagement he has had with Arriva in the last month.

After the Minister was asked to make a statement on the provision of bus routes in North Wales, he said:

“Questioning you here last month, I quoted Arriva Bus Wales, whose Head of Commercial, North-West and Wales, told me, quote:

“As we discussed in Wrexham, Arriva do not want to change services, but have to because of 20 mph…because of 20 mph, the buses are taking longer to operate across North Wales, so we’ve had to register changes that have seen route curtailment, frequency reduction and additional resource to cope with the new running times required.”

“In response, you told me you were ‘very keen to engage with them’. They also told me that with the Bus Services Act 2017 creating Bus Franchising in England, Manchester had had to spend £75 million to £100 million to launch this there, and that Manchester had also had to introduce a Council Tax Bus precept, and asked how the Welsh Government were going to fund bus franchising in Wales, when they don’t have enough to fund the current network, where the people need to know.

“So, what engagement have you had with Arriva Bus Wales since last month? And how are you going to fund the additional cost of bus franchising in Wales?”

In his response, the Deputy Minister blamed Arriva and Local Authorities for the changes to bus services in North Wales.

He emphasised the importance of bus priority measures over simply increasing speed limits to improve service reliability and criticised the suggestion that the problems could be solely attributed to the 20mph policy.

Mr Waters said: “I don’t think it’s fair or accurate for Arriva to blame the changes to the timetable on 20 mph. Other companies have managed to plan that without achieving such adverse consequences. But there are areas where the routes are going down roads, which, arguably, could well be turned back to 30 mph.

“We have local authorities in North Wales who have not used the discretion that they have under the current guidance to introduce exceptions, and I think that is a question for them to explain why that is.”

“Rather than Arriva blaming the policy, I think it is the local implementation of it in those areas that could have been better planned with Arriva.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Isherwood said: “It is disappointing that once again the Welsh Government are choosing to blame everyone but themselves for these cuts to bus services, which are hugely inconveniencing residents, and leaving some communities stranded.”

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