The Welsh Government plans to roll-out a new funding and standards system for bus operators, warning companies that it could result in 'the withdrawal of journeys or routes'.
Devised by the former Sewta (South East Wales Transport Alliance) consortium of local authorities, the scheme is based on distribution by local government of the Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG).
The BSSG replaced the Bus Service Operators’ Grant in Wales before the Government effectively abolished Sewta.
Bus operators with an enhanced quality standard receive higher BSSG per kilometre operated than those meeting only the core standard. Enhanced quality criteria includes participation in multi-operator ticketing schemes, on-board next-stop announcements and proportions of fleet meeting Euro emissions standards.
‘The ethos of a quality standards scheme is to reward, rather than penalise operators,’ Welsh Government officials said in its consultation document.
‘For services operating at the margin, the reduction in BSSG funding associated with not meeting [enhanced standards] or only meeting the essential/core standard could lead to the curtailment or withdrawal of journeys or routes.’
The Government is consulting on a national standard but says the points values for each element of the enhanced standard may be varied regionally to reflect local needs.
Operators will provide evidence of meeting quality standards when claiming BSSG. Existing Bus Compliance Officers, employed by Bus Users Cymru, will monitor whether stated quality standards are maintained in practice.
The Government is providing no additional funding for the scheme, and this year’s payment rate for enhanced quality in South East Wales is lower than last year’s flat-rate payment.
The Government accepts that there will be additional administration, but comments that South East Wales authorities implemented the original scheme with existing resources.
Stakeholders are invited to submit comments to a consultation on the Welsh Government proposals no later than Friday 29 January 2016.