The Welsh Government has announced a new five-point plan for supporting Wales’ bus industry.
The new plan will focus on helping bus companies to become more sustainable and providing assistance to ensure that they are able to deal with temporary economic challenges.
It lays out strategies that involve cooperation with leaders of local authorities, as well as the Welsh Government providing and facilitating support to ensure that local services are protected.
Our bus service in Newport has been put under strain over the last few years and there have been a number of service withdrawals. It is important that we have a strong network of buses across the City to support those who rely on them to get to and from work, to have access to the City Centre and to make journeys around Newport. Bus services are also crucial for older people who use it to get out and about. For many it can be a lifeline. We need to make sure we are prioritising the services that are so vital for them.
Problems with bus services affect all areas of Newport, particularly those which lack regular and convenient connections to the City Centre. We need to ensure that our City Centre is accessible to everyone. Transport services are vital to the city’s economy.
I am pleased to hear about the new five-point plan, and I look forward to the Welsh Government working with Newport City Council, Newport Transport, Stagecoach and NAT to protect our services. We need to look after the interests of passengers as well as bus service workers. These proposals are a step in the right direction.
The Welsh Government has pledged that Business Wales and Finance Wales will provide services to review existing bus networks and design improved and more efficient alternatives. As well as making a commitment to proactively with local authorities to identify vulnerable bus services, and help develop strategies to respond to planned service withdrawal.
Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates AM has said he will meet with leaders of local authorities in Newport and Cardiff to ensure that the best characteristics of the private commercial sector are protected, with the social responsibility of the public sector operators in Wales.
A Bus Service Summit has also been announced for early 2017. The Summit will be organised and attended by local authorities, bus operators, Bus Users Cymru, the Community Transport Association, groups representing disabled people and other stakeholders.
The full 5 point plan is
1. The Welsh Government will offer all bus companies in Wales dedicated professional assistance through Business Wales and Finance Wales and will call on local authorities to make every effort to protect their funding for bus services in the current challenging economic climate.
2. The Welsh Government will work proactively with local authorities to identify, at the earliest opportunity, potentially vulnerable bus services and will put a local strategy in place to respond to any planned withdrawal of services considered vital to the sustainability and wellbeing of the local community.
3. The Cabinet Secretary will meet leaders of the local authorities in Cardiff and Newport together with the Managing Directors of their municipal bus companies, to gather intelligence on how sustainable bus networks can be operated whilst maintaining the social dividend. He will also work with the Confederation of Passenger Transport to combine the best characteristics of the private commercial sector with the social responsibility of the public sector operators in Wales.
4. The Welsh Government will fund 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.
5. The Welsh Government will hold a Bus Services Summit in early 2017. The Summit will bring together local authorities, bus operators, Bus Users Cymru, the Community Transport Association, groups representing disabled people and other partners to consider how best bus services that are financially viable and sustainable in the longer term can be delivered.