Welsh Government will legislate for franchising

Bill ‘will seek to reverse negative impacts of deregulation’ through enabling public control of services

The Welsh Government (WG) has announced that it will introduce a Public Transport Bill to enable local authorities (LAs) to franchise or run bus services directly.

It will “seek to reverse some of the negative impacts of bus deregulation,” says the WG. The Bill is an integral part of ministers’ ambition to create an integrated public transport network in Wales.

Stinging rebuke

In a stinging rebuke of the privatised industry, First Minister Mark Drakeford claims that the problems with bus services “lie in the denial of powers to LAs to be able to act purposefully in the public interest.”

Continuing a bizarre attack, Mr Drakeford also says that “the vast majority of revenue” received by bus operators in Wales comes directly from the public purse, and that it should be used in the public interest.

“That’s what our Bill will secure… alongside the other things that we are already doing: Extending subsidised bus travel for young people and paving the way for the future of services by having demand-responsive services operating in parts of Wales.”

The First Minister adds that one of his hopes for the Bill will be to remove “wasteful” competition on routes where more than one company operates. That has compromised LAs’ abilities to support non-commercial services.

Regional delivery

Mr Drakeford says the Bill will give LAs powers to provide planned bus services. There will not be a common approach; the strategies adopted will be different depending on the region of Wales they are enacted in. “In our proposals for bus transport… we will bring together a set of proposals to support the regional development and delivery of services.”

Bus Users UK cautiously welcomed the news, but it points out that funding cuts across Wales have seen services “devastated” in some communities. There is no suggestion where the money to pay for franchising or operation of services by LAs will come from.