Vale Council on board for bus trial

Penarth Times: Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport. (5669698) Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport. (5669698)

THE VALE of Glamorgan has been chosen as one of two pilot areas in a trial looking at finding

new ways to deliver public transport.

Welsh Government, transport minister Edwina Hart has announced funding to trial new, more efficient methods of delivering public transport to improve access to jobs and services, particularly in rural areas.

The Vale Council and Ceredigion council will each receive £100,000 in 2014 to 2015 to test better, more efficient ways to co-ordinate conventional bus, community transport and local authority services, including the use of council vehicles to help people access health and social care.

The pilots will evaluate the costs and benefits of discounted travel for young people to access jobs and training.

The Bus Policy Advisory Group then advise the minister on what schemes could be rolled-out nationally.

Mrs Hart said: “I want to ensure everyone in Wales is able to access jobs and services via reliable public transport. We must start looking at new and innovative ways of delivering these services, particularly in rural areas, by means of a sustainable and efficient network. I am pleased that the Vale of Glamorgan and Ceredigion Councils are working with us to progress this vital piece of work.”

The Vale Council will investigate a number of schemes, including how to encourage new fare-paying passengers to use rural public transport, establishing a scheduling and booking system for public transport, with ICT support, reflecting the Bwcabus or Green Links services, identifying on-road infrastructure improvements, such as bus stops.

It will also seek to establish a collaborative team to procure and manage services to reduce costs and evaluate the potential for discounted bus travel for young people and those not in employment, education or training.

Both councils will work together to share their findings and collaborate on ideas, also identifying best practice from other local authorities.

The Minister also announced that the budget for the new Bus Services Support Grant will be £25m for 2014-15, the same amount as in 2013-14 for the Regional Transport Services Grant, which it replaces.

The grant scheme is to enable local authorities to support socially-necessary bus and community transport services.

But Vale-based South Wales Central AM, Andrew RT Davies, while welcoming the money, said it was little more than an a “sticking-plaster”.

He said: “Rural bus services have been devastated by Welsh Government cuts of over £24 million and the impact here in the Vale has been particularly profound.

“Whilst this money is welcome, it is a miniscule fraction of the cash lost so far by operators who have in turn withdrawn numerous local routes.

“It is asking a lot of the Vale council to turn bus services around with this sum – akin to sending a fire fighter in to tackle a forest fire with a damp flannel.”

He said the focus on increasing take-up of rural services was welcome, but missed the point that in many areas there simply are no bus services.

“I welcome the focus on encouraging local people to use rural bus routes more regularly but in some instances there simply are no buses for them to use,” he said.

“I genuinely hope that these schemes are successful because it is vital that people can access work, education and other public services but recent cuts to funding by the Welsh Government have hit the Vale hard.

“The minister needs to go further and look again at the new system they have introduced to calculate operators’ subsidies.”

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