A National Bus Strategy for Wales, a Welsh Green Bus Fund, an increase in Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG) payments and a ‘bus first’ policy for towns and cities are among calls made of prospective members of the next Welsh Government by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) Cymru.
CPT Cymru issued its bus policy aspirations ahead of the Senedd election on 6 May. The Confederation says that they will “help to drive a step change in public transport” in Wales. It adds that as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, “there is an opportunity to build a reinvigorated bus network and tackle some of the major changes” in the country. Those include congestion, inequality and the pressing need to rebuild the Welsh economy.
National Bus Strategy for Wales part of ‘clear signal’ required
CPT Cymru Director Josh Miles says it will be important for the next Welsh Government to encourage bus use “by making a clear commitment to build a better bus network for Wales.” He adds: “Our sector is ambitious for the future of Wales’ bus services. As Wales goes to the polls, we hope all parties share our ambition to build a better bus network.”
The proposals form part of what CPT Cymru hopes will be an extension of the current partnership approach. When announcing the Bus Emergency Scheme 2 (BES2), which will support the industry through the current financial year, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters said that it provides “the basis of partnership work to deliver better services.” An agreed core set of partnership principles will be developed as part of BES2 arrangements.
At that time, Mr Waters revealed that ministers’ thoughts had already turned to a National Bus Strategy for Wales. Such a policy forms a central part of CPT Cymru’s calls.
It wants to see a Strategy achieve modal shift while also providing confidence for operators to invest in low- and zero-emission vehicles. CPT says that a National Bus Strategy for Wales would also build on the partnerships that have developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Welsh Green Bus Fund and BSSG increase also called for
In addition, CPT Cymru wants a Welsh Green Bus Fund to will help operators to overcome the financial challenges of adopting zero-emission buses. Decarbonisation would be aided by the establishment of a transition to low-emission vehicles working group in partnership with operators. A major rollout of priority measures across Wales is also part of CPT’s calls.
CPT additionally wants to see a commitment to an annual increase in BSSG payments. BSSG has been held at £25m per annum since its inception in 2013/14. The Confederation notes that BSSG’s predecessor was £32m in 2011/12, which provides strong evidence of “a longer-term decline in direct funding” for buses in Wales.
Complementing CPT’s calls relating to BSSG is an aspiration for a low-emission incentive to further encourage the uptake of environmentally friendly vehicles. It additionally wants to see the disparity between bus and rail funding addressed. The Confederation says that each bus user in Wales receives an average financial support of 30p. Rail passengers receive an average of £5.51 each.