A view from Carolyn Thomas – Welsh Labour’s North Wales Member of the Senedd
Wrexham.com has invited the four North Wales Members of the Senedd to write a monthly column with updates on their work. You can find their updates – along with contributions from the Wrexham and Clwyd South MPs and MSs – here.
In this month’s column for Wrexham.com, Welsh Labour MS Carolyn Thomas writes…
The ending of the Bus Emergency Scheme, which was initially funded through COVID sustainability funding, means that many operators in Wales are at risk of terminating and cutting services.
A reduction in services leads to a domino effect of disastrous consequences. It isolates communities and reduces connectivity whilst also forcing people to switch to using cars which then has a detrimental impact on the environment.
Often it is the hidden effects that can be most damaging for individuals; the removal of a bus route upon which someone relies to connect to others can have a hugely debilitating impact on mental health.
With an ageing population, our bus networks are going to be needed in the future more than ever. We must provide current and future passengers with an adequate network, but vitally with the confidence to return, or to try buses as their preferred mode of transport.
Innovative thinking is required to bring that confidence to consumers and grow the use of public transport in Wales. In Rhondda Cynon Taf, the Council offered free bus travel for the whole of March, resulting in thousands of people returning to using local bus routes.
I am calling for an affordable fixed price as well as a campaign to bring about clear timetabling and availability of information involving all operators, the Welsh Government, travel organisations and charities.
Next year, the Welsh Government plans to introduce legislation which will allow local authorities to run their own bus companies.
This is an absolutely vital step forward. Publicly-owned municipal bus companies provide the opportunity to run buses for people, not profit, and reverse the decades of damage wrought by privatisation following Margaret Thatcher’s Transport Act in 1985.
The Welsh Government should instruct and fund local authorities to seize this opportunity when it arrives to provide a stable, reliable and green public service that is capable of achieving a shift to increased public transport usage.
Transport for Wales also have a role to play; they could assist with mass procurement and supply of buses in order to make running services more affordable for both smaller operators and local authorities.
Buses are a flexible mode of transport meaning that they can be far more demand responsive than trains, as well as being both easier and cheaper to produce, making them a more scalable and rapid solution to the climate crisis.
The immediate task is to ensure our current bus network remains intact. We need our buses in order to tackle social isolation and regional inequalities, as well as for our elderly, for connectivity and for the fight against climate change.
Welsh buses and should play a leading role in rebuilding the landscape of Welsh public transport – we must back them now, and in the future. If you agree with me, please do sign Unite Wales’ ‘Back Your Bus Route’ petition, here.
Our ‘Back Your Bus Route’ petition has now reached over 1000 signatures.
We need 10,000 signatures to have it heard in the Senedd.
Please sign if you believe Wales must have an improved public transport system – no cuts to routes, no loss of jobs…https://t.co/BeY0kKU3ij pic.twitter.com/8xkPvxW2UB
— UniteWales (@UniteWales) April 22, 2023
As a Member of the Senedd for North Wales, I’m here to help you with any issues that you might have. Please email me on Carolyn.Thomas@Senedd.Wales, call my office on 0300 110 0176, or visit my website: www.carolynthomas.wales.
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