The Welsh Government has disappointed bus managers by refusing to commit to increased bus funding following the demise of two major operators this summer.
GHA Coaches - Wales’ biggest independent bus operator - followed Silcox Coaches into receivership, leaving many local authorities scrambling to arrange replacement services.
Transport Network asked the Welsh Government whether it would increase funding for buses in the next 12 months, and whether it now acknowledged that its cuts to Bus Services Support Grant (formerly BSOG), concessionary travel reimbursement and Local Transport Services Grant had been excessive.
GHA Coaches went into administration
A spokesman replied: ‘We allocate funding to local authorities under the BSSG to supplement their own budgets for subsidising bus and community transport services. This grant has been maintained at £25m since 2013-14, despite very challenging funding settlements from the UK Government.
'Campaign for Better Transport data shows that during the same period, many local authorities have cut significantly their own budgets for service subsidy, and some no longer have any budget to subsidise bus services.’
Justin Davies, chair of bus industry body CPT Cymru, responded: ‘It’s disappointing, because clearly there are rising costs. Why wouldn’t you increase it [funding] at least in line with some element of inflation?
‘To say it’s a local authority problem is a bit weak. Local authorities get a fair proportion of their funding from the Welsh Government.
‘There’s a lot of pressure on the industry, against a background of fewer people travelling by bus. That’s a nasty cocktail of stuff building up which, if nothing strategic is put in place, will result in a lot of stuff going “Bang”.’
GHA Coaches was based in Wrexham, where a recent Campaign for Better Transport report claimed the local authority was ‘spending nothing’ on bus services.
Wrexham CBC said it had never eliminated bus subsidy but had seen ‘significant reductions’ in Welsh Government funding.
The authority said it had adopted criteria to prioritise services, ensuring ‘as far as practical, some resilience in our local bus network’.