I have written on several occasions in the Gem about the cuts to the bus services and my recent surgeries have been dominated by the subject. As a result of the number of contacts I have received I have held two public meetings which were packed with worried residents.
The latest concerns relate to the rumour that the 98 Cardiff Bus that serves Highlight Park and Barry Town Centre, which could be abolished. There are other further concerns around other services across the rural vale.
Last week I have received further complaints from constituents who have read the latest papers from the Vale Council that seem to suggest a further 25% cut. This has far reaching implications and will again hit many in Barry and the rural Vale, particularly in vulnerable groups like the elderly and school children.
With the centralisation of medical services elderly residents have been unable to get to hospital appointments; implications for parents who have freedom of choice on where they send their children to school and the cost to the economy and families are obvious. There will also be an increased cost to social services as pensioners become more isolated. The cuts make little sense and it seems obvious that those who have taken the decisions to cut bus services do not use public transport themselves.
When in April I met with the local bus contractors I was told that the reduced level of subsidy from the welsh Government and Vale of Glamorgan Council wouldn’t allow them to provide a service on a like for like basis in the future. I fear that a further 25% cut will make the situation even worse and there is a view that this cut will affect services in the north of Barry, in particular the Highlight Park area. I will be holding a public meeting regarding this issue on Friday 22nd November at 6.15pm at the Highlight Park Community Centre to discuss the further cuts and to form an action plan to fight them. All are welcome to attend.
I also find it difficult to believe that the express coach to the airport, the T9 has taken money away from local services. This service costs £470K a year and appears to be travelling empty. We only need a fraction of this to restore many services that provide a lifeline to so many communities.
The background is the cut to the Bus Operating Grant (BUSOG) provided by the Welsh Government, which subsidises the routes.
The Welsh Government has negotiated a 3 year deal with the bus industry and local authorities that has provided financial certainty for the concessionary travel scheme for elderly and disabled people.
The all-Wales concessionary fares scheme is administered by local authorities and they in turn are reimbursed by the Welsh Government.
I have asked the Welsh Government why they have cut the bus operating grant so much more than in England and whether they would reverse the change. It seems that they are not going to reconsider their plans. In the same year that £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.