Plaid Cymru politicians have urged the Welsh Labour Government to commit to safeguarding the Bus Emergency Scheme which subsidises many bus routes across rural Mid Wales.
The call follows correspondence received by Plaid Cymru politicians Mabon ap Gwynfor MS and Cefin Campbell MS for numerous service operators which have expressed concerns over Welsh Government proposals to cease funding for the Bus Emergency Scheme which, if implemented, could leave thousands of people without a lifeline to essential services.
The BES (Bus Emergency Scheme) was introduced by the Welsh government when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. The public were advised not to travel and hence the bus operators’ income revenue ceased. Since its introduction, the BES initiative has evolved to BES 3 and ceases on 31st March 2023.
Fare paying patronage levels across Wales have only returned to 65% of pre-covid levels and concessionary travel returned to 55% of pre-covid levels. The BES funding has therefore been of crucial assistance to many local authorities and bus companies in sustaining key routes in rural communities.
Following the growing concern, and likely impact on rural transport in communities across Powys and Mid Wales, Plaid Cymru’s Mabon ap Gwynfor brought the concerns to the attention of Welsh Government’s Deputy Climate Change Minister, Lee Waters MS in the Senedd on Wednesday 8th February.
Mr ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Housing and Rural Affairs, urged the Welsh Government to offer assurances the BES funding would continue for the next financial year.
Commenting, Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Dwyfor-Meirionnydd said:
'In response to questioning from me today, the Deputy Minister said that providing public transport was a priority for this government.'
'However, I and my colleagues have been contacted by bus service providers who tell us that the government have dropped plans to continue with their Bus Emergency Scheme (BES) – which subsidises many of our most rural routes.'
'This cut will result in thousands of people losing their lifeline to access essential services.'
'The paucity of buses in rural areas and the increasing pressure on operators are leaving more people than ever before isolated – with those who cannot independently get to work, the shops or to see the doctor having to turn to friends, taxis and community transport to get them from a to b.'
'If the government is serious about prioritising public transport, then they must ensure that the Bus Emergency Scheme continues next year or risk exacerbating the transport problems already endemic in our rural communities."
Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for Mid and West Wales, Cefin Campbell added:
'The importance of bus services within our rural communities across Powys cannot be understated. For the elderly and vulnerable, they're vital lifelines for medical appointments and shopping - whilst many other residents are reliant on them for travelling to and from work.'
'The current uncertainty surrounding funding is jeopardizing the future of many key bus routes - and is likely to have catastrophic impact on our rural communities, together with undermining wider Welsh Government public transport commitments.'
'It's vital Welsh Government review the funding arrangement for our buses with urgency.'
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