Economy Secretary, Ken Skates, has reiterated his commitment to building a more effective network of bus services for Wales.
He also welcomed the Department for Transport’s (DfT) proposed amendment to the Bus Services Bill, which is designed to ensure better on board information for disabled people, something the Welsh Government said it has supported since 2013.
Speaking to Assembly Members, Ken Skates said: “Local scheduled bus services are, and will continue to be, the foundation of our public transport system, allowing people across Wales to get to work, to hospital appointments, to education and to leisure activities.
“Indeed we know that buses continue to account for more than 101m passenger journeys each year, which is significantly higher than the number of rail journeys.
“We are committed to delivering a more effective network of buses and to supporting the bus industry in the short term through what are difficult times.
“Last month, following the recent loss of three local bus companies serving our rural communities, I announced a five point plan to support the bus industry in Wales.
“This includes offering all bus companies in Wales dedicated professional assistance through Business Wales and Finance Wales, and calling on local authorities to make every effort to protect funding for bus services in the current challenging economic climate.
“I also want us to work with local authorities to identify vulnerable bus services at the earliest possible opportunity so we can quickly respond to any planned withdrawal. With this in mind I have made funding available to provide bus coordinator posts for both north and south Wales in order to bring together work on policy and investment and develop the Statutory Bus Quality Partnership model.
“I will also be holding a bus summit early next year to bring together local authorities, bus operators, groups representing passengers and disabled people, the Community Transport Association and others to consider how the best financially viable and sustainable bus services can be delivered.
“I am aware for example that smaller bus operators in some of our rural communities have real issues recruiting drivers and maintenance staff and acquiring new vehicles and depot facilities and these are issues I am keen to explore at the summit.”
The Cabinet Secretary also welcomed the Department for Transport’s proposals, as part of the Bus Services Bill, to amend the Equality Act 2010 so that bus operators are required to provide disable passengers with accessible information on board.
He added: “Here in Wales, we have supported the introduction of next stop audio visual announcement systems on buses to improve accessibility for people who are blind, deaf or experiencing sensory loss since 2013. This has included encouraging bus operators to install such systems as part of our Welsh Bus Quality Standards.
“I very much welcome this recent commitment from the UK Government to require bus operators to provide accessible information on board buses for disabled passengers, and look forward to working with ministerial colleagues in England and Scotland to ensure quality accessible passenger information is universally available right across Great Britain.”
John Pockett, Director of CPT Wales, told CBW: “The CPT very much welcomes this statement from the cabinet secretary and we look forward to working with the Welsh Government to support the bus industry across Wales.
“We were especially pleased to have met with him recently and are encouraged by the dialogue that has been initiated.”