Flintshire Council to replace buses with minibuses on some services

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Flintshire County Council has voted in favour of reducing commercial bus operator funding, leaving just nine routes in the area which will be supported by public funding.

Services in certain rural areas will be replaced by minibuses run by the local authority – which will also be less frequent – while council support for a number of routes will also be completely withdrawn.

The plans were agreed at a meeting of the council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee – which aims to create a ‘sustainable and effective’ transport network.

Currently, private operators run over 55 different routes in the county, around 40% of which are subsidised by the taxpayer with some paid for entirely by the council.

Chief Officer for Transport, Stephen Jones, said in a report: “The council will not be able to fund the full range of existing public transport routes and meet the demand for additional routes, particularly as commercial operators reduce their services.

“This is because many of the supported bus services in Flintshire are still under-utilised and therefore heavily subsidised which makes them unsustainable.

“The core bus network operates along strategic transport corridors across the county, linking main hubs with direct and high-quality bus services.

“Local travel arrangements on the non-core network are intended to be provided by smaller minibus vehicles, which are better suited to the nature of the routes in rural areas or to those where access for larger buses is restricted, such as residential housing estates.

“The local travel arrangements would operate in a similar way to conventional bus services with a scheduled timetable and fixed route, transporting individuals to the local area hub or hubs along the core network for onward journeys.

“However, the scheduled minibus services may not operate to the same frequency or level of service as provided by conventional bus services, for example different days of the week rather than Monday to Saturday.”

A number of other changes were agreed during the meeting, including the removal of bus travel for pupils with special educational needs attending Ysgol Pencoch’s breakfast club.

Existing users of the breakfast club bus will be unaffected, but new starters will no longer be able to use the bus if the plans go ahead in September.

Cabinet members also voted to increase the cost of concessionary bus passes from £165 a year to £300.

Councillor Carolyn Thomas, Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Countryside, said at the meeting: “It is proposed that at the off-peak times during the day, options will be explored to use the buses to support local travel arrangements and ensure that they are utilised to full capacity.

“The new vehicles will be extremely cost effective to operate, as they use new technology working alongside the Euro VI engine, which means improved fuel economy.”