Bus operators in Wales have offered a gloomy assessment of the prospect for running additional services, with no sign of additional funding coming from the Welsh Government.
Bus operators in England have received additional grant from the DfT to fund the ramp-up in services as lockdown restrictions are eased. The Scottish Government has just announced a funding deal worth £47.6m over eight weeks to do the same (see left).
No such funding has been forthcoming from the Welsh Government, even though it is gradually easing lockdown restrictions.
Stagecoach in South Wales said last week: “As long as social distancing of two metre remains on buses, bus operators will not be able to meet the cost of ramping up services with very little extra revenue generated from the ramp up.
“We are concerned that the lock-down relaxation from next Monday (22) and the following two Mondays, is not coordinated with the ramping up of bus services, as the demand for travel will increase and continue to increase placing pressure on already limited capacity for passengers on buses.”
Another operator said the situation in Wales was “looking quite stuck”. “There’s no indication of when they [the Government] might address the problem or how they want to address it.”
Operators suspect the Government does not have the funding to pay for a scheme, though the considerable sums going to keep rail services running and support active travel have not gone unnoticed.
Bus mileage in Wales fell to levels below those seen in England during lockdown because the level of support from the Welsh Government, in the form of Bus Service Support Grant and concessionary fares reimbursement, was lower than England.
FirstGroup’s mileage in Wales is estimated to be currently at about 40 per cent of normal.
A recent exchange on Facebook between a passenger and Cardiff Bus highlights capacity problems. The passenger complained that they had just travelled on a bus that was “rammed full”. “Pretty sure the only empty seat was the one next to me with my bag on it!”
Cardiff Bus replied: “We’re working with the Welsh Government on new timetables. Currently buses can carry up to 50 per cent capacity, which includes sitting and standing passengers.”
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