Welsh ‘Buses Bill’ will put passengers first, says Minister

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Cardiff Bus feared the possibility of losing its entire market to a larger company. CARDIFF BUS

Speaking ahead of the publication of the Bus Services (Wales) Bill on Monday 16 March, Economy, Transport and North Wales Minister Ken Skates said deregulation of bus services in the 1980s had been an ‘abject failure’ and action was needed to put passengers first and improve services. The new Bill introduced into the Senedd also contains powers for new partnership agreements between operators and councils as well as powers to ensure information over timetables and routes are more freely available for passengers and potential new operators.

The Bill will provide local authorities with an improved range of planning tools and put new information sharing arrangements in place. It will:

  • Enable partnership schemes to be set up between local authorities and bus companies, allowing them to agree how services can be improved;
  • Provide new powers to franchise services meaning bus companies could be given the exclusive right to run bus services on agreed routes;
  • Mean local authorities could also run their own bus service, to deliver or fill in gaps in existing bus provision, including working with other local authorities to run a bus service across different counties;
  • Deliver powers to facilitate improved information sharing with passengers; and
  • Permit information sharing with local authorities where bus companies are proposing to stop or change a service they run.

The Welsh government says that, combined, these measures will help improve bus services as part of the Welsh Government’s wider reform of integrated public transport.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) Cymru has described the Bill as a massive missed opportunity. John Pockett, Director of CPT Cymru, said: “Operators welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with Government and transport authorities to deliver better services for passengers, but this bill is a great disappointment and missed opportunity.

“The best way to improve services would be meaningful action to tackle congestion to speed up journey times, which is the number one reason people choose not to take the bus. This will require significant investment from the Welsh Government in bus priority measures in our towns and cities to support the ongoing investment being made by bus operators to improve services. Unfortunately this bill is silent on whether this investment will be forthcoming and is a missed opportunity.

“Simply focusing on the regulatory regime for buses will not deliver the quicker journeys that will benefit passengers in Wales, nor will it encourage people to switch car journeys for bus journeys.”

According to the BBC, First Cymru claimed franchising would act as a brake on investment, while local-authority owned Cardiff Bus feared the possibility of losing its entire market to a larger company.