Welsh bus reform called for
‘Most radical’ intervention in the bus network since de-regulation urged
Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, has called for a reform of the way bus funding is made in Wales.
In a statement on the funding provided to the bus industry during the pandemic, he said that during the first peak of the virus the Welsh government was subsidising every bus passenger to the tune of £30 per head. He claims that had it not done so commercial bus operators would have gone out of business.
Lee Waters said: “We recently announced a package of £84.6m of funding to help maintain and develop service levels for the rest of this financial year. This will bring our total support for bus services this year to £140m.
“This is a significant investment at a time when public funding is under unprecedented pressure.
“And this is going to be difficult to maintain, so we have to reform.
“The existing eco-system within which bus services are funded, delivered, and managed is complicated by a deregulated, fragmented, and commercially motivated market. Our funding is paid to around 80 bus operators through 22 Local Authorities via a number of funding streams and contracting mechanisms which have grown in scale and complexity over the last 30 years.
“Despite the majority of their income coming from the public sector, individual operators determine routes, frequencies and fares, while customers are faced with services that don’t integrate with other modes, timetables that don’t connect with other routes, and tickets that don’t work with different operators. This can’t go on.
“It is the most radical intervention in the bus network since de-regulation over 30 years ago” – Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales
“In return for this funding, we want a new deal for passengers.”
He went on to say the Welsh government would like to do this in co-operation with operators. It is working with them to build a partnership that delivers its wider objectives, one that gives taxpayers more influence over routes and standards, and allows the management and integration across transport modes: including smart ticketing, coordinated routeing and integrated timetabling.
The Welsh government’s goal is to secure a multi-modal network that is better able to match supply to demand; which would be delivered regionally, and shaped by its decarbonisation priorities and equality objectives.
Lee said: “It is the most radical intervention in the bus network since de-regulation over 30 years ago.
“We are still living with the legacy of this misconceived privatisation project. The legislative framework that remains continues to be a barrier to achieving a joined-up transport system.”