Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
Encouraging more young people to travel on the bus network is a key priority for the Welsh Government. That is why since September 2015 we have been funding a pilot scheme offering discounted bus travel to younger people, under the “MyTravelPass” brand.
The aim of the scheme was to test the issues influencing younger people’s travel decisions, and in particular to encourage more to travel by bus, instead of by private cars.
Initial analysis of the scheme suggests that few younger people use the bus to travel outside their immediate area. This may be because their schools, colleges, places of work or training, or their friends and social activities do not require them to travel further.
I have always been clear in my commitment to encouraging young people to use our buses and, with a review showing that 91% of respondents used the bus or a coach to travel at least once a week for shopping, work, school or college, there is clearly an appetite in Wales for a scheme of this nature.
On 23 January I hosted Wales’s first Bus Summit in Wrexham to delve further into the detail of what the bus network is and should be providing to Wales’s communities, including their younger people. It is clear that there are a range of complex issues affecting passengers’ experiences of buses, and other people’s perceptions of what it offers.
I am working with local authorities, Bus Users Cymru and the bus industry, among others, to ensure that bus services meet our reasonable expectations, especially given the very significant public funding that supports the network. Building upon the Summit, I have asked my officials to establish a number of workgroups including our partners to undertake further work to improve all aspects of the bus services on which so many people rely.
Linked to this wider exercise, I have decided that younger people need a better, more attractive offer to encourage them to consider the bus when making travel choices. I am exploring a range of ambitious options to achieve this, and intend to make a further, more detailed announcement about this work shortly.
My intention is to launch a new Youth Travel Pass from 2018, which can support young people in their lives, study and in work. I will be establishing a wide-ranging consultation exercise to discuss with young people, including schools, colleges and bus companies a scheme that is attractive, can practically support them in their life, work and study and will encourage modal shift.
Of course, I recognize that this will take time to roll out and so in the meantime, I have reached agreement with local authorities and the bus industry that the existing discounted bus travel arrangements will continue to be available to 16, 17 and 18 year olds throughout Wales from 1 April 2017. Existing passholders will see no difference, and new applicants will continue to be able to apply for one-third discounts through online or postal applications.
I have also asked the Confederation of Passenger Transport, representing the bus industry, to come forward with proposals for a new marketing campaign to increase the take–up and use of passes.
I hope that the reassurance of existing arrangements in the short-term, while we design a different scheme over the coming months, will give every chance of encouraging more young people onto our buses in the long term.