By Anthony Lewis
Free bus travel in March for journeys that start and end in Rhondda Cynon Taf could soon be approved.
A cabinet report for Tuesday, February 28 recommends approval for free bus travel from March 1-31 this year for all journeys that start and finish within the county boundary, regardless of the operator.
Services that begin or end outside the county boundary would be excluded and subject to the full regular fare.
There would be no time limit so free travel would be available from the first to last service each day, with wider benefits for social interaction and supporting economic activity across the county borough, the report said.
The council has successfully bid for money through the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund to introduce initiatives that will help reduce the cost of living for residents, through measures that improve energy efficiency and combat fuel poverty and climate change.
For 2022/2023, £500,000 has been awarded to RCT Council with further funding of £1.1m for 2023/24 and £1.2m for 2024/25.
If agreed, officers will then review the outcomes of the free bus scheme and look at developing more free bus travel initiatives during 2023/24 and 2024/25.
The estimated cost of this one-month initiative is up to £500,000, which will
be fully underwritten by Shared Prosperity Fund grant funding.
The council will agree the costs of the initiative with operators in advance
by using a historical level of “on bus” revenue which the council said simplifies administration and removes any financial incentive for operators to inflate claims as well providing parity between bus operators.
The initiative will operate alongside the Welsh Government concessionary bus pass scheme, and concessionary pass holders will need to present their pass
to ensure the correct level of funding comes from the Welsh Government.
The report said: “With transport being responsible for 17% of Welsh Greenhouse gas emissions, the need to encourage transport modal shift has never been greater, with private car use emitting 62% (2018).”
It said the proposal would support longer term objectives to encourage the use of more sustainable modes of travel as supported by the Wales Transport Strategy.
The cabinet report also said: “This initiative will make transport services accessible, fair and inclusive through the removal of economic barriers that potentially prevent people from using sustainable public transport and encourage increased usage of public transport for retail and leisure activities” adding that more than 30% of households in RCT do not have access to a private car.