Stagecoach criticises lack of bus recovery funding in Wales

Stagecoach in South Wales has criticised the Welsh Government’s failure to provide funding to facilitate increased bus service levels in the country as some restrictions are relaxed from Monday 22 June.

While the legal requirement for people in Wales to “stay local” remains in place, all non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen.

Stagecoach expects demand to rise as relaxations are made. However, social distancing measures remain in place. They reduce buses’ capacity, and thus revenue-earning potential, by up to 75%, the operator says. As a result, it cannot enhance timetables without external funding.

“As long as social distancing of 2m remains on buses, operators will not be able to meet the cost of increasing services with very little extra revenue generated from doing so,” the operator adds in a statement.

“We are concerned that lockdown relaxation from Monday 22 June, and from the following two Mondays, is not coordinated with the ramping up of bus services. The demand for travel will increase and continue to increase. That will place pressure on already limited capacity.”

Stagecoach and other bus operators in Wales continue to work with the Confederation of Passenger Transport Cymru and the Welsh government on the timeline and level of funding that will be needed to allow a ramp-up of services.

In May, NAT Group Managing Director Adam Keen said that funding to support the industry in Wales during the recovery period from coronavirus COVID-19 would be “crucial.” Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates suggested on 13 May that available bus capacity may be prioritised for the use of key workers and travellers without access to a car.

During the same address, Mr Skates also criticised the official message in England that public transport should be avoided at all costs. That approach would “store up social justice problems,” he said.

In England and Scotland, government money has already been made available to the bus industry to assist it in increasing service levels as those nations relax restrictions.