It was blindingly obvious from the outset that the Welsh Government was wrong in announcing it would reduce the level of concessionary fares reimbursement based on the money it thought it had available rather than, as the law requires, the amount operators require to be no better and no worse off.
Despite warnings and the threat of a Judicial Review it went ahead and confirmed to operators that this was what it was going to do. Only on 26 June, after Stagecoach had been through all the processes that will result in the closure of its Brynmawr depot on 20 July, and operators including Cardiff Bus and First had already trimmed their networks, did the Welsh Government finally admit it was wrong. Rather than face a High Court appearance it accepted the inevitable and will increase reimbursement on a basis drawn up by CPT in Wales.
It’s another argument against devolving power to people who don’t appear to understand the commercial environment, are cavalier with people’s jobs, have weird ideas about what constitutes a transport priority, don’t listen in the face of the inevitable and do what they do too slowly. I mention this now because greater devolution of power to a local level is high on the agenda.
I don’t entirely blame the Welsh Government, those in Westminster have to take a share of the responsibility for introducing one of the worst thought out pieces of legislation ever to grace the statute books. Was its future affordability and the detrimental effect it has on the market in effectively forcing bus companies to generate all of their profits from ‘real’ fare payers, ever properly considered? The fall out from it looks set to blight and distort bus operation for many years to come. It will take a very brave politician to withdraw it and put things back on a proper footing and politicians who are brave in the face of the power of the grey vote are rarer than buses in parts of Wales (and elsewhere) are becoming.
By Stuart Jones