Today’s Western Mail has confirmed that just £25m will be available to support buses and community transport across Wales in 2013-14. That compares unfavourably with £33m last year, and as a result councils and bus companies are reducing services or drawing up cutbacks.
The paper says that rural services, which have the highest subsidies per passenger, are especially vulnerable, and experts believe more young people will be forced to leave their home villages:
Nick Richardson, policy director of the Transport Planning Society, has studied bus cuts in England, where the subsidy reduction was less severe than in Wales. One in five services supported by English councils had been withdrawn or reduced in 2011-12.
“Crucially, bus service changes affect younger age groups,” he wrote in Passenger Transport magazine. “As most employment and training centres are in towns, getting to them is fundamental. Withdrawing buses changes the game completely.
“Given the stark choice of living somewhere with no access or moving so you can get to work means that, in most cases, younger people will move – adding to urbanisation pressures.
“This is a significant demographic change, as many younger people will not return to the places in which they grew up – hardly a recipe for sustainable communities.”
He said this would leave a “residual community” in rural areas – mainly middle-aged people who own cars and are comparatively well-off.
“Alienating communities seems to be an odd way of saving relatively small amounts of money,” he added.