Depending on where you live the Vale, this has become a real issue for many local residents.
Since earlier this year I’ve been frequently contacted by constituents concerned by the widespread cuts to bus services across the Vale, from Barry to Peterston Super Ely and Llantwit Major.
Elderly residents are unable to get to hospital appointments; others have reported that they are unable to get to work and have to consider leaving work as it is not financial viable for them to pay taxis or buy a car (if they drive).
Back in April after meeting local bus contractors I understood that the current level of subsidy that they receive from the Vale of Glamorgan Council wouldn’t allow them to provide a service on a like for like basis in the future. At that time I called on the local authority to prioritise their budgets to help support the local bus services.
As medical services are being centralised, bus services become even more important. The service between Llantwit and Barry is essential and key to access the hospitals in Llandough and the Heath in Cardiff. Bus routes X99 and 95 to Barry Island have also changed their routes and elderly residents tell me they can no longer get to their local shops and amenities.
The background is the cut to the Bus Operating Grant (BUSOG) provided by the Welsh Government, which subsidises the routes. This deal with the bus industry and local authorities has provided financial certainty for the concessionary travel scheme for elderly and disabled people. Administered by local authorities, they in turn are reimbursed by the Welsh Government.
I don’t understand why the Welsh Government has cut the bus operating grant so much more than in England. I’ve raised the matter with the Welsh Government but it seems that they are not going to change their plans. In the same year as £52M has been spent on an airport, Welsh Government need to understand that some of the most vulnerable people use bus services for essential purposes.
The Airport Express new bus service linking Cardiff Airport and the city centre is funded by the Welsh Government in conjunction with Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils. I understand from local residents and business owners that they have regularly seen the bus empty of passengers. How much is this costing the tax payer?
Whilst I support all efforts to help Cardiff Airport to attract new airlines and to make the airport sustainable, I do question the cost of the service provided by Welsh Government when subsidies for other more essential bus services in the Vale are being slashed.
It seems to me that the Vale Council must prioritise local bus services for communities across the Vale.
I raised the matter with the Vale Council, which could support the routes directly. The Leader of the Council advised me some months ago that they were going to review all their bus routes and the levels of support over the summer. I’m yet to hear about the date for a review and would ask Gem readers to contribute their views once the review is published.
Many Vale residents rely on the bus service for daily essentials – shopping, health appointments and of course travelling to work. Surely the Council will prioritise their funding to support essential local bus services.
If the Vale received a fair funding settlement from Welsh Government, and not be one of the lowest level funded local authorities, this issue would be all easier to rectify.