Bus operators are dismayed that the Welsh Government will make another real-terms cut to bus funding next year while earmarking £300,000 for a controversial rural rail project study.
The Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG) replaced the Bus Service Operators Grant in 2013 and following a 25% cut has remained at £25m ever since despite inflation. It continues to be set at £25m in the 2017-18 budget.
Meanwhile, the Welsh budget also includes £300,000 for a feasibility study into rebuilding the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen railway, closed in 1965. Last year a government-funded study put the cost at up to £750m.
Justin Davies, chair of bus industry body CPT Cymru, questioned the study's value, stating: ‘Even if it was built, the rail service is donkeys' years away, but the Welsh bus industry has gone through a very difficult time, as evidenced by the collapse of three Welsh operators this year.’
Mr Davies said allocating the £300,000 to BSSG instead would have helped ‘redress some of the balance which has been lost’.
A government spokesman said BSSG had been maintained at £25m since 2013 despite ‘very challenging funding settlements’ and had announced a five-point plan to help support the industry and make services more sustainable.
He said the feasibility study into reopening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line would add to the growing body of evidence on the best way to improve transport in the region.
Rail infrastructure is not devolved but the Welsh Government does develop potential project business cases to bring investment to Wales.