…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
Funding Cuts Threaten Bus Services in Neath Port Talbot
The leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Steve Hunt, has expressed concern over the cancellation of several bus services in the borough due to funding cuts.
The Welsh Government recently announced the Bus Transition Fund, intended to replace the Bus Emergency Scheme, which concludes later this month.
Despite assurances of £43 million in funding, there is still a possibility that some bus services may be discontinued.
Impact on Neath Port Talbot: The affected bus services in Neath Port Talbot, operated by South Wales Transport, include the number 202 bus from Neath to Port Talbot via Briton Ferry and the 204 bus from Neath to Skewen.
These services are scheduled to be cancelled starting from July 22.
Additionally, the school service S50, which runs to Cefn Saeson Comprehensive, will be cut and not reinstated in September.
Alterations to several other services, such as the 256, 251, and 252, will also take effect from July 24.
South Wales Transport’s Statement: South Wales Transport, in a statement on their website, expressed reluctance in ceasing the 202 and 204 bus services.
They highlighted the significant support received from the Welsh Government during the pandemic, but passenger levels have failed to return to pre-Covid levels.
The reduced support from the Welsh Government has created uncertainty for the future of bus services in Wales, leading to the consideration of further reductions or withdrawals.
South Wales Transport indicated that the local authority has reached out to other bus operators in the area to gauge their interest in operating the withdrawn services from July 24.
Council Leader’s Response: Council leader Steve Hunt expressed his concerns about the implications of the Welsh Government’s funding proposal for bus services in Neath Port Talbot.
He highlighted the uncertainties surrounding the proposal, making it difficult to assess its impact on the bus services.
Hunt acknowledged that due to ongoing uncertainties, some local bus companies have already cancelled their routes, leaving communities without a bus service.
He pledged to engage in further discussions with the Welsh Government to safeguard services for residents throughout the borough and ensure access to essential services.
Government’s Perspective: Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters provided details about the Bus Transition Fund, mentioning that £46 million has been allocated from bus budgets to support the Bus Emergency Scheme and the new fund for the entire financial year.
This funding will also ensure the continuation of strategic TrawsCymru services.
Waters acknowledged that while most current services would be protected, some adjustments might be made to accommodate changes in travel patterns following the pandemic.
The Regional Network Planning Teams are working on analyzing the bus network and communicating potential changes well in advance.
Collaboration and Future Funding: Cllr Andrew Morgan, Leader of the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association), acknowledged the challenging financial position faced by councils, operators, and the Welsh Government due to increased costs and reduced passengers.
The WLGA welcomed the funding provided by the Welsh Government but recognized that not every route could be protected.
The Bus Transition Fund aims to gradually move away from emergency funding and restore a mix of commercial and supported services.
Encouraging people to use buses becomes crucial in sustaining as many services as possible.
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