Cash for new bus services trials in rural areas
- 22 April 2014
- From the section Wales
Extra money is being given to two local authorities to trial new ways to co-ordinate bus and community transport services, particularly in rural areas.
The Vale of Glamorgan and Ceredigion councils have been given £100,000 from the Welsh government.
The year long trial will also look at using council vehicles to help people access health and social care.
It comes as some of Wales' largest bus operators have cut services blaming a reduction in subsidies they receive.
Last month Wales' largest bus operator, Stagecoach, confirmed it was cutting services in five counties.
And Cardiff Bus has also blamed a cut in subsidy for reducing its services.
But the Welsh government has said it wants the pilot projects to help find new ways of delivering public transport.
The aim is to see how bus firms and councils can work together to cut costs, plan routes and coordinate timetables to meet users' demands.
Vale of Glamorgan council's remit will include looking at how to encourage more people to use rural bus routes, setting up an online booking system and reducing the costs of services.
And new public transport routes to communities around Tregaron will form part of Ceredigion council's scheme, as well as using its own vehicles to bolster bus services.
The work to identify best practice from local authorities will report to the Bus Policy Advisory Group.
Transport Minister Edwina Hart said: "I want to ensure everyone in Wales is able to access jobs and services via reliable public transport.
"We must start looking at new and innovative ways of delivering these services, particularly in rural areas, by means of a sustainable and efficient network."
Ms Hart announced councils will have £25m in 2014-15 toward socially-necessary bus and community transport services, the same amount as in 2013-14.
But bus operators, including Stagecoach and Cardiff Bus, have blamed the Welsh government slashing its three-year funding package from £213.3m to £189m for the cutbacks they have made.
Stagecoach announced last week that it was cutting 14 bus services, putting 77 jobs at risk.
Last autumn Arriva announced the closure of its Aberystwyth depot as well as a number of route losses blaming cuts in public transport funding and rising fuel costs for the decision.
In February, BBC Wales revealed nearly 100 subsidised bus routes have been scrapped by councils in Wales in the past three years, with further cuts expected as authorities make savings.
The Welsh government has said the new reimbursement rate for bus operators was set following an independent review to ensure operators were "no better and no worse off" by taking part.