Two weeks ago my column focussed on the changes to bus services across Barry and the rural Vale. I expressed concern about the cuts; and that the Local Authority should make bus services a spending priority, following the cut backs by the Welsh Government.
Since that article, I have been inundated with calls, emails and letters from constituents highlighting the impact on their lives. These changes are wholly unacceptable and cannot be left as they are.
Wherever I go, bus changes have been raised.
At Age Concern on Holton Road, Barry, pensioners explained how the changes are preventing them from getting involved in activities. It rightly dominated the conversation, where everyone was unanimous in their opposition.
A young mother from the rural Vale who is employed on the minimum wage said that she will have to give up her job because she simply cannot afford a car. Regular taxis are out of the question.
Parents from Barry and Cowbridge have contacted me asking how their children will travel to school.
Barry pupils who have chosen to attend Stanwell School in Penarth make their own transport arrangements. However, the service they depend on, the 94 no longer exists. The replacement leaves at a time that they physically can’t get to within the schedule.
To add insult to injury, if a pupil catches the 94 bus in Penarth, then change to the 98 service during its limited journey, they are required to pay twice for the same trip they used to make on one ticket.
A similar situation exists in relation to Cowbridge School. One family contacted me saying that they may have to move their daughter to another school. Another Mum, told me that she will have to give up her part time job in order to drive her child to school.
Transport from Rhoose to Cowbridge School is again a major issue as is the situation of a 17 year old, working to develop their skills at Barry College.
In another example a child with learning difficulties being educated at Cowbridge travelled from a rural village. The pupil thrived on the independence the bus journey gave. It developed social skills and confidence. This has now ended.
The service to the Heath hospital has also been cut, leading to more ambulance calls. Green Links offer an excellent service but are already stretched.
The situation has far reaching implications. Costs to the economy and families are obvious but there will also be an increased cost to social services as pensioners become more isolated.
The background relates to the Bus Operating Grant. It is a scheme where bus operators reclaimed much of their fuel costs from the Welsh Government. Levels of support have been cut at a higher rate than they have in England.
In the absence of the Welsh Government changing its policy, the only way to maintain levels of service is if the Vale Council make a strategic decision to prioritise bus spending.
I recognise that money is tight, which brings us back to the way that the Vale Council is being underfunded from Cardiff Bay. If we received the same level of funding as Cardiff, we would gain an additional £25M a year. If it was the same level as Bridgend, we would gain even more. There is more information on this on my website.
Free bus passes for pensioners are of little use if there are no buses on which to travel.