New powers to reshape bus services across Wales

Ken Skates is introducing new legislation into the Senedd giving councils bold new powers to reshape bus services across Wales.

Speaking ahead of the launch of a new toolkit proposed in the Bus Services (Wales) Bill, the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales said deregulation of bus services in the 1980s had been an ‘abject failure’ and said action was needed to put passengers first and improve services.

The Bill includes new powers for councils to franchise bus services on routes and paves the way for local authorities to run their own bus companies, alongside powers to franchise services so that bus companies could be given the exclusive right to run bus services on agreed routes. It also contains powers for new partnership agreements between operators and councils as well as powers to ensure information over timetables and routes are more freely available for passengers and potential new operators.

Skates said: “Bus services are crucial to our lives. Whether it’s supporting people into work; getting individuals to a vital medical appointment or helping us stay in contact with family, friends and loved ones – every single one of us, in some way or another, depends on bus travel. But it’s clear that deregulation of bus services in the 1980s has been an abject failure. Passenger numbers are falling and it’s clear that the free market model simply does not work. Bus services can’t be sold like washing powder or apples – they are a vital public service that need to be planned in a coordinated and rational way for passengers.

“This legislation help us take action to end that free market model. It puts passengers first by giving local authorities the opportunity to better plan and deliver bus services through new franchising powers and by lifting the ban on councils establishing their own bus companies. 15 per cent of households in Wales do not have access to a car and we need to take action to improve the viability and the attractiveness of alternatives to cars such as buses. Improving public transport is also a critical part of our response to the climate emergency and the need for modal shift in our communities. This legislation isn’t a silver bullet – it has to go hand in hand with our investment in Metro systems and plans to tackle congestion. But it is a vital toolkit that can help us deliver on our ambition for an integrated and seamless public transport system that gets people out of their cars.”