Campaigners and bus operators have welcomed the Welsh Government’s five-point plan to support the country’s bus industry after a summer that saw three companies go out of business.
Ken Skates, cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, last week announced a five-point plan to help the industry ‘become more sustainable and better able to ride out temporary economic challenges’, with a focus on smaller companies.
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Mr Skates said he was offering all bus companies dedicated professional support to review existing bus networks, alongside ‘asking local authorities to make every effort to protect their bus support in an economic climate that I recognise as being challenging’.
He also pledged to work proactively with authorities ‘to identify potentially vulnerable bus services, and put in place a local strategy to respond to any planned withdrawal of services that are considered vital to the sustainability and wellbeing of the local community’.
The third part of Mr Skates’ plan was to meet council leaders in Cardiff and Newport and the bosses of their municipal bus companies ‘to gather intelligence on how sustainable bus networks can be operated while maintaining the social dividend’, as well as working with the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) ‘to combine the best characteristics of the private commercial sector with the social responsibility of the public sector operators in Wales’.
Mr Skates pledged some new funding for new bus co-ordinator posts - one in north Wales and one in south Wales - to bring together the various strands of policy and investment to develop the statutory bus Quality Partnership model
The Campaign for Better Transport said it was ‘celebrating’ the announcement. Head of campaigns James MacColl said: ‘Finally a minister is recognising the importance of buses, the value they provide to local communities, and the threat they are under due to losses in funding.
‘We only hope that the UK Government and Members of Parliament in Westminster can take this as inspiration to amend the Bus Services Bill so that it extends powers to improve services across the whole country.’
There will also be a Bus Services Summit early in 2017, Mr Skates said.
Justin Davies, chair of CPT Cymru, welcomed the announcement and the forthcoming summit. He said: ‘The dialogue that [Mr Skates] is establishing between the industry and local authorities, in particular, is a very positive development and we look forward to playing a full part in that dialogue.’