A five point plan to support the bus industry in Wales has been announced by economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates.
In a speech yesterday to leading transport providers, the Economy Secretary called for a collaborative and creative approach to ensure a quality, equitable and sustainable bus network that serves communities whilst delivering value for money for the tax-payer.
Ken Skates said, “It’s no secret that the bus industry is facing challenges. Whilst local bus services in Wales accounted for more than 101 million passenger journeys over the last year, I have been saddened by the recent demise of three local bus companies serving some of our more rural communities.
“Rightly, our thoughts are with the workers affected by these closures and their families but we must also consider the wider social and economic impacts on the communities affected.
“I am determined to work with the industry, local government and passengers’ groups to deliver a stable bus network – that gives people the confidence to continue to choose and use the bus.
“The five point plan I am announcing is designed to support the bus industry, and SMEs in particular, to become more sustainable and better able to deal with temporary economic challenges.
“This support will work alongside our continued funding through schemes such as our Bus Services Support Grant and our free bus travel schemes.”
Under the new plan:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The Economy Secretary added, “This five point plan provides our bus industry with short term help whilst considering long term solutions.
“Together, I am confident that we can deliver a quality, equitable and sustainable bus network that provides communities and individuals across Wales with services they need and deserve.”