Plaid Cymru MS for South Wales West, Sioned Williams has expressed her disappointment at a decision by Neath Port Talbot Council not to pursue a free bus scheme, following similar successful schemes in other local authorities in Wales.
Following a meeting with senior representatives of the Council, Sioned Williams commented on the decision.
“It was very disappointing to hear that Neath Port Talbot Council will not be replicating the scheme, which has proven very popular in Swansea since it was first trialed in the summer.”
“Over the last two years public transport operators across Wales have seen a decline in passenger numbers, with some services being reduced or scrapped entirely. Even with an ease in restrictions, it looks as though numbers are not bouncing back to previous levels.”
“Everyday thousands of people across Neath Port Talbot use buses to go to work, attend education and training, access key public services, go shopping, take part in volunteering activities, meet up with friends and much more. When services are reduced or scrapped, more are cut off from education, employment and community life. Bus services are not just important in our efforts to reduce car usage and carbon emissions, they are essential for the wellbeing of our communities.”
“A free bus scheme would be a welcome boost for families hit by the Cost of Living Crisis and our town centres that are struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic on footfall. I would urge Neath Port Talbot Council to look again at the economic, social and green benefits.”
In August 2021, Swansea Council launched a free bus scheme, providing free bus journeys within the city and county. This prompted a surge in passenger numbers, with many using the offer to visit the city centre, beauty spots in the Gower or simply saving money on regular essential transport costs.
Swansea repeated the offer over Halloween and was joined by Cardiff and Newport in offering similar schemes during the Christmas period.
Neath Port Talbot Council claimed that prohibitive costs as well as doubts over the benefits were the reasons for their decision. The Council is currently running a consultation on both their corporate plan, entitled Recover, Reset, Renew, and budget proposals for 2022/23, which Sioned Williams will be responding to before the February 1st deadline.