Welsh bus patronage reaches all time low

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Bus use in Wales has reached an all-time low, the Western Mail has reported. The Welsh Government said there were 107 million passenger journeys in 2013-14 – the lowest since figures were first collated in 1982.

The biggest decline in recent years coincided with the Welsh Government’s decision to slash its grants for bus services by 25%. Councils have withdrawn other bus services in response to their general financial pressures, with further cuts on the cards in Powys, Cardiff and Flintshire.

CPT Cymru Chairman Justin Davies, who is also MD of First Cymru said the current statistical series started in 1982, and in the decades before that the bus was a mass mover because most households did not own cars.

He said: “I think 800 services have been lost in Wales. If you take off that number of services, inevitably you’re going to take off the customers.”

New statistics from the Department for Transport have said that bus passenger journeys in Wales fell by another 3.3% in 2014-15 compared with a decline of 0.2% across Britain as a whole. Bus fares also increased by 4.2% in Wales, more than anywhere else in Britain.

Welsh passenger numbers had stabilised at about 115 million in the years before 2012-13, when the Welsh Government began implementing a 25% cut in bus grants for councils and bus operators. In the same year, bus passenger numbers plummeted by 6%.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We are delivering a range of public transport to support Wales’ social, economic and environmental needs, and have established a Bus Policy Advisory Group, which includes bus operators, to look at new approaches to service delivery and funding.

“The Welsh Government is providing £25m to subsidise bus and community transport services, and nearly £5m to improve Newport and Merthyr Tydfil bus stations. We have also committed £13.2m for bus priority measures under Phase 1 of the Metro project.”

A CPT report on the Welsh bus industry, published on June 29, stated some facts about the industry, including the fact that 85% of passengers are either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their bus journeys.

CPT Director for Wales, John Pockett, said: “The facts presented in the report really do speak for themselves, clearly showing the vitally important and often forgotten role that buses play in moving millions of people and facilitating economic growth.

“For many buses are a lifeline and the only realistic way of gaining access to shopping facilities, leisure activities, education and employment, and it’s great to see that the vast majority of our passengers, who represent a wide demographic, rate our bus services so highly.”