Transport Minister Ken Skates has agreed funding of £25m Bus Service Support Grant (BSSG) for 2019-20, citing reform as a driving force to improve transport networks across Wales.
The aim of the Welsh Government funding, which began in 1998-99, is to supplement local authorities’ expenditure from their own budgets in supporting the bus and community transport networks in their areas.
In recent years, however, a small but significant number of councils have reduced or removed entirely from their budgets any funding to support bus and community transport services. This means the Welsh Government’s BSSG allocations are effectively replacing funding from authorities’ own budgets.
Transport Minister Ken Skates said:
“As a government, we need to review our own expenditure to ensure that, given the challenging financial circumstances in which we all find ourselves, we achieve the most beneficial outcomes for the bus network, and bus passengers
“I urge the local authorities to ensure they use the bus services support grant, in addition to their own revenue support grant, wisely, for example to assist people in getting to and from non-emergency appointments.
“I'm also pleased to be able to say we'll be testing innovative forms of integrated responsive bus travel in the Valleys, and the trial will very much focus on non-emergency patient transport. We also have plans to carry out other innovative pilots in West and North Wales. I will be providing further details about these pilots in the near future.
“It is my view that demand-responsive transport, working in tandem with community transport services, could offer solutions across the length and breadth of Wales that, to date, have not been deployed. But it will require those radical reforms that are outlined in the White Paper.”
The White Paper, Improving public transport, sets out ambitious proposals to improve the legislative framework for how local bus services are planned and delivered, together with reform of the licensing regime for taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).
It puts forward a range of options to empower local authorities to determine the most appropriate model for providing bus services in their area, and for tackling the inconsistencies and challenges with the licensing of taxis and PHVs.
Ken Skates added:
“Using the new powers we have gained in the Wales Act 2017, we can reshape the public transport network in a way that supports our ambition to increase the number of people using public transport and encourage travellers to switch from private car use; reducing pollution and congestion.”
Local authorities that have applied successfully to the Welsh Government for civil enforcement powers for parking, bus lane or moving traffic contraventions are able to use any surplus after meeting their costs to support public transport initiatives in their areas.