£189m for Welsh scheme
Funding worth £189m for the free bus travel scheme across Wales has been announced by Welsh Transport Minister, Edwina Hart. The new three year package follows an independent review of how bus operators should be reimbursed for offering free travel to more than 720,000 concessionary pass holders in Wales.
Edwina Hart said, ‘Since April 2002, the Welsh Government has ensured that older or disabled persons resident in Wales have been able to travel free on local bus services throughout Wales. In 2011 we extended this to include Armed Forces personnel and veterans. The scheme is hugely successful and popular and there are now more than 720,000 passes in circulation. This scheme helps some of the most vulnerable in our society access essential services. I am very pleased to announce funding for the next three years. We have always operated this scheme on the principle that bus operators who carry pass holders are no better and no worse off. The independent review found that the reimbursement rates need to be changed in order to maintain that principle. Following this and discussions with partners, we have now agreed a new deal.’
As part of the overall review of the concessionary bus fare scheme, a review of the calculation of reimbursement payments was undertaken by MVA/Minnerva. Its findings have been shared with representatives of the CPT and Wales’ four Regional Transport Consortia. In light of the review, the Welsh Government has amended the statutory guidance to local authorities on the Modifying Factor used to calculate the reimbursement due to bus operators, which has now been reduced from 73.59% to 64% in 2014-15. Local authorities will receive a total of £65m in 2014-15, £63m in 2015-16 and £61m in 2016-17. Edwina Hart also announced recently that she is establishing a group of advisors comprising of representatives from operators, local authorities and other interest groups to look into best practice in public transport.