Local authorities may have lost their specialist public transport officers by the time the Buses Bill gives them new options such as franchising, council chiefs have warned.
Giving evidence to a Welsh Assembly committee, LGA transport adviser Charles Loft said: ‘As councils are forced to reduce bus services, it becomes difficult for councils to justify employing officers.
'Some councils have cut back pretty much to nothing their tendered bus services but still have officers working with bus operators to mitigate the effects of those cuts, and that’s been quite effective. But over time those jobs could disappear.’
Assembly Members later raised the issue with Welsh transport minister, Edwina Hart, who effectively abolished Wales’ regional transport consortia last year.
Transport Network has previously reported on concerns of a potential brain drain with former consortium officers leaving Wales while some unitary authorities had become reliant on the consortia for public transport expertise.
Mrs Hart told the Assembly committee: ‘We have an excellent working relationship with some excellent officers in local government who have been working on this [bus services]. Some officers that were very experienced have left local government and that’s bound to have an impact on service delivery, if I’m honest.’
She said authorities should collaborate with each other and with other public services. She highlighted the bus quality standards which South East Wales authorities have implemented collaboratively as a condition of Bus Services Support Grant (formerly BSOG).
The quality standards were devised by Sewta, the regional transport consortium which no longer exists.