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Transport for Wales could take over council bus tendering role


21 September 2020

Transport for Wales could take over tendered bus service procurement from local authorities as part of wider reforms to the bus industry proposed by the Welsh Government.

The shake-up follows the Welsh Government’s decision to withdraw the Bus Services (Wales) Bill this summer. It featured powers covering Welsh Partnership Schemes and franchising, and would also have given local authorities the right to run bus services, either as an in-house service or through an arms-length company.  

Iwan Prys Jones, programme manager at the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, told councillors this week that the   Government’s new proposals had two objectives. 

“Firstly, [to] use the funding currently supporting the industry to change the approach to the management of the bus system across Wales. This revised approach to funding could secure the benefits sought from the postponed legislation.

“Secondly, their proposals provide for a single controlling mind for the delivery of an integrated network. In effect, this is to utilise Transport for Wales as the main delivery and procurement body for the bus system, transferring the roles from local authorities, in return for the local authorities becoming part ‘owners’ of TfW. 

“The minister and councillors would exercise joint management of TfW with local authority involvement through the corporate joint committees that are proposed in emerging local government legislation.”

Asked about its proposals, a Welsh Government spokesman told LTT: “Local authorities will continue to have an important role in planning bus services, holding local knowledge and democratic accountability. Transport for Wales will take on an expanded role, working alongside local authorities, to better coordinate public transport.

“We put £115m into bus delivery for the provision of services, including socially necessary non-commercial routes and providing free transport for concessionary fare holders. The changes will ensure this public funding is best spent in the interests of passengers across Wales.”

The Government says operators have historically received about 44 per cent of total income through fare-paying passengers. The figure is currently much lower due to the significant reductions in demand resulting from Covid-19. 

Prys Jones said the new proposals raised a number of concerns, including “the potential impact of the proposals on local authority staff; concerns about the inclusion of school transport costs in the funding mix; concerns that congestion reduction measures and reliability improvements are not reflected correctly in the proposals; and that the discussions about future regional governance arrangements and the establishment of corporate joint committees are as yet unresolved”.

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