Fresh calls to make coun­cils run ru­ral buses

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

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.

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