Fresh calls to make councils run rural buses
BUS services in rural areas should be operated by councils rather than private firms.
The call, made by Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian, came after disruption to bus services caused by revocation of operating licences, allegations of fraud and companies withdrawing from routes.
Gwynedd Council said it was considering running some bus services as a “possible option for the future”.
The move would be allowed if a Thatcher-era law barring councils from setting up bus services is scrapped in Wales.
Urging the Welsh Government to find a “new model” Ms Gwenllian said: “Bus services should be brought into public ownership in order to create services in the rural parts of Arfon and elsewhere.
“Less profitable services could then be subsidised by the more profitable ones.
“Bus users in my constituency are not getting a fair deal at the moment.
“Many rely on buses to get to work and to vital services but this is getting increasingly difficult in some communities.”
Last week the owner of Express Motors, Eric Wyn Jones, and three of his sons were handed lengthy jail sentences after being convicted by a jury of trying to swindle Gwynedd Council by claiming cash for thousands of journeys which never took place.
The men who ran the firm from a depot in Penygroes, near Caernarfon were also found guilty of siphoning more than £500,000 which they failed to declare.
During September Arriva Cymru ceased running a bus service between Llanberis and Caernarfon.
The service was one taken over by Arriva following the revoca- tion of Express Motors’ operating licence by the Traffic Commissioner for Wales at the end of 2017.
Arriva said the reason was because of “low passenger figures” although residents claimed the service was unreliable and prone to cancellations at short notice.
Another company has now taken over the service.
In August the Traffic Commissioner revoked the bus operating licence of Tacsi Gwynedd - a firm owned by Huw’s Taxis chief Huw Edwards - after inspectors said they faced intimidation when they tried to examine vehicles.
Responding to Ms Gwenllian’s suggestions, a Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “Running bus services is something the Council has considered for some time as a possible option for the future.
“As a result of recent local developments in the field, we will be giving the matter further detailed consideration. Whilst there is a willingness to consider the matter, it is important to note that there are a number of matters and commitments to consider in detail along with considerable financial investment and time before such a considerable change could be introduced across the county.”
The Welsh Government said it could not force an operator to run a particular service without subsidy.
However, it has already approved a £25m discretionary grant to help authorities subsidise “socially-necessary” transport services in 2018-19.
Last year the Welsh Government proposed allowing councils to set up new municipal bus companies amid claims councilrun transport would be more focused on services than profits.
But opponents in the industry argue some former municipal bus firms had not operated well.