Today’s Western Mail reportsthat the respected transport journal, ‘Local Transport Today’ has launched an attack on the Welsh Government, describing its policies as “ a muddle.
The magazine, which is widely read across Britain by civil servants and ministers, local government officers, academics, transport consultants and lobbyists, says that only a year ago the Welsh Government was strengthening the powers of the four regional transport consortia – representing all local authorities – and urging the 22 unitary authorities to collaborate:
“A change of minister has seen the collaboration agenda largely grind to a halt and the regional transport consortia stripped of their responsibilities, amid mutterings of being ineffective and bureaucratic. And so funding is now being channelled via the 22 councils again.”
The editorial acknowledges that the government has created two city-region boards, one for South East Wales and one for Swansea Bay, and that ministers want the boards to help with strategic planning and identifying transport priorities.
“But the boards have bizarre compositions, with many councils having no representation,” it comments.
“The Williams Commission has recommended the creation of fewer, larger councils, but its plans appear inconsistent with the city regions.”
Local Transport Today also comments on the rail electrification row.
“It seems incredible that such basic confusions can arise in multi-million-pound projects,” it says.
This muddle, it argues, “is just one of a number hampering transport policy in Wales right now”.
It says the Welsh bus industry is “stumbling from one predicament to another as a bewildering array of reforms comes out of Cardiff … Funding has been cut, rules have changed and further reforms are mooted… Then there is the cut to concessionary fares reimbursement, which could yet end up in the courts.”
Stagecoach believes the 11% cut in funding for the free-travel scheme – where bus operators are supposed to be fully reimbursed for their costs – is illegal and has threatened a legal challenge. In July, it will close its Brynmawr depot and reduce services, blaming “misguided cuts”.
Stuart Hyslop, of Wrexham-based GHA Coaches, said: “I’m shocked that they’re surprised, because they’ve had enough warning. Do they think we run buses on fresh air?”
Cardiff Bus is reducing services next week. Llanelli’s local buses will be slashed next month. Managers at small local bus companies, which have previously provided replacement services, said they could not expand now, because of funding cuts and the Welsh Government’s sudden changes.
One, who asked not to be named, said: “We want to make our services work, but we’re forced into a corner. The most frustrating thing is that everything happens at such short notice. I can’t invest money in buying new vehicles when the Welsh Government are as blasé as they are at the moment.”