'Worrying' bus fares rises in Wales

UK Department of Transport figures show fares were up almost 7% while the number of bus journeys fell 5%

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Bus fares have risen more sharply in Wales than other parts of the UK, amid warnings it could lead to people unable to pay to travel.

UK Department of Transport figures show fares were up almost 7% while the number of bus journeys fell 5%.

A transport charity says people could become cut off if the trend continues.

The Welsh government said cuts to its funding made it difficult to maintain the current level of support for local bus and community transport services.

But Sustrans Cymru, which promotes sustainable travel, says Welsh government has cut grants for buses by a quarter - £8m.

Start Quote

While the Welsh government can find hundreds of millions of pounds for widening the Heads of Valleys Road, it is cutting grants for buses”

End Quote Matt Hemsley Sustrans Cymru

"These figures show a worrying picture that is likely to see transport poverty in Wales on the increase," said Matt Hemsley, the charity's policy advisor.

He was speaking after the release of annual figures from the Department of Transport found 5.1% fewer passenger journeys to the year ending in March 2013.

£5m budget cut

Meanwhile, bus fares rose by 6.9% during the same period.

Mr Hemsley said three in 10 households in Wales did not have access to a car so public transport was important.

"A thriving bus system can help tackle social injustice and reduce poverty in Wales," he said.

"However, while the Welsh government can find hundreds of millions of pounds for widening the Heads of Valleys Road, it is cutting grants for buses."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "The UK government has imposed a reduction in the funding for Welsh government of £1.7bn over the next few years and this has made it very difficult to maintain the current level of support for local bus and community transport services."

In 2013-14, the regional transport services grant which replaces the former bus service operators grant and local transport services grant has fallen by £5m to £25m compared with the previous year.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents coach and bus firms, says the industry has had to cope with between 25-30% funding cuts in the last 18 months.

CPT Wales director John Pockett said other nations have received more support that Welsh counterparts and he questioned whether a grant supporting an air service between north and south Wales could be better spent.

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