The Welsh Government’s £48m Bus Emergency Scheme (BES) has helped to keep bus services running throughout the pandemic, but in line with the rest of the UK, it recognises the need to move towards a more sustainable funding method. The scheme was due to come to an end in March 2023 at the end of the current financial year but, after extensive conversations, the Welsh Government has confirmed that it will extend it for a ‘transitional period.’ It says an initial extension of three months will give the industry the short term stability it needs while it continue to work on planning bus networks which better suit new travel patterns which have emerged since the end of the pandemic. Following conversations with the Traffic Commissioner, the deregistration window has also been temporarily reduced to 28 days, which along with the extension of funding means there is no need for operators to make decisions on their future network in the very immediate future and gives more time to plan for future changes.
The move was announced in a joint statement from the Welsh Government, WLGA, CPT and Coach & Bus Association Cymru and followed an open letter addressed to Wales’ Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters from Plaid Cymru’s Gwynedd Cabinet Member for the Environment Dafydd Meurig calling for ongoing support and certainty. He wrote: “Without such grant money it will be impossible for local authorities to maintain the current public transport network, let alone expand it. The uncertainty also affects the ability of bus service providers to plan ahead. I therefore call on you to clearly state that a suitable grant scheme will be in place by the start of the next financial year, in order to give certainty to travellers, service providers and local authorities.”