Councillor’s online vent over missing bus highlights familiar frustration for commuters

A councillor’s online vent about a bus in Cardiff which never turned up has highlighted an issue which is familiar to a number of commuters.

One of Cardiff Council’s ward members for Llandaff, Cllr Peter Huw Jenkins, took to social media this week to call the current number 63 Cardiff Bus service “unacceptable”.

Cllr Jenkins’ post about the bus failing to turn up and “disappearing” from the Cardiff Bus app was met with a number of comments from people who reported facing similar issues.

Cardiff Bus said that if they cancel a journey with enough notification, they do remove it from the departure board view.

Commercial director at Cardiff Bus, Gareth Stevens, also said that the company has focused on recruitment and retention which has improved its position since similar issues were reported last year.

.@Cardiffbus, I walked up Cathedral Rd in anticipation of meeting 63 at the Halfway.

63 not passed and now, no sign of the bus + disappeared from app.

Late or cancelled? No clue, hour wait if I wanted next one. A 40 min walk or hope of diff company meeting their timetable.

— Peter Huw Jenkins (@PHJenkins) May 2, 2023
Mr Stevens said: “We don’t set out to not operate services – running buses is what we are here to do.

“However, there are many matters in doing so that simply do not sit within our control – in fact if only they did!”

Mr Stevens went on to add: “For the app there are two ways of tracking a bus – the map view and the departure board.

“The departure board will revert to ‘scheduled’ as opposed to live times if a journey is not matched in the system.

“This could be for several reasons, ticket machine link is faulty, service is not yet started, or service cancelled.

“In the map view option, you will physically see the bus move on the map – it won’t do this if the ticket machine link isn’t working, journey cancelled etc.

“We try and steer people to the map view. If we cancel a journey with enough notification, we do remove from the departure board view – but it all depends on how quickly a decision to do so has been taken.”

In December 2022, Cardiff Bus announced that they would be ceasing the X59 service which used to operate between Cardiff East Park and Ride in Llanrumney and the city centre.

At the time the company said the level of regular usage and revenue made across all of the route wasn’t enough to continue the services.

Some have voiced their concerns about the future of other services in Cardiff since the change of bus use patterns after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Welsh Government confirmed that the deputy minister for climate change, Lee Waters, recently said at a Cardiff Cycle City event that Cardiff will likely lose a quarter of its bus network.

Mr Stevens said: “Currently the biggest challenge remains the uncertainty around future funding, and what the implications are when a decision is made, and urgently needing meaningful bus priorities.

“For some of our services we have seen a good return to pre-pandemic usage and some not so, each route has almost its own profile of customers, so it really is a mixed picture.

“There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected buses, here in Cardiff, Wales, and the UK as well as other forms of public transport.

“We need to start to realign the bus networks to the new level of usage we see as the building blocks for then growing usage from that stable position.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Passenger numbers simply haven’t recovered since the pandemic which has led to permanent changes in travel patterns.

“We have been supporting the bus industry through this challenging period and now we have a chance to deliver better connected services for the future.

“As part of these discussions, we are exploring ways to work with partners to encourage bus travel.

“We are working closely with local authorities and operators on how best to maximise the overall impact of the bus funding available to build a strong and sustainable bus network for Wales.”

The Bus Emergency Scheme (BES) was set up to help bus companies cope with the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and drop in passenger numbers.

In March, the Welsh Government announced that they would extend the scheme to July 24 2023.

Bus operators are currently in discussion with the Welsh Government as to what happens when the scheme comes to an end.

When asked for examples as to where Cardiff Bus has seen a decline in passenger numbers and where demand has been restored, Mr Stevens said: “I can’t give explicit examples.

“However, for more general terms, the journeys made by holders of an All-Wales Concessionary Travel pass are lagging passenger recovery in other groups on a Wales-wide basis.

“Therefore, services that had a higher make-up of customers from this group will see weaker passenger recovery.

“More generally I think each area is seeing a different picture emerge depending upon what their customer profile was pre-pandemic.

“For example, one area that remains lagging is the weekday AM and PM commute where hybrid/WFH (working from home) remains, however the ‘congestion’ created at peak times is worse now than before, for which there are several factors underpinning that trend.”

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