BUS routes across parts of South Wales are set for further cut backs this month after First Cymru, the main bus operator in Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, and south-west Wales announced alterations to a number of services.
The changes are set to come in on Sunday, October 29, and could see a number of routes impacted, after reductions were made to the amount of Welsh Government funding bus operators in the area receive.
It comes after the Bus Emergency Scheme fund, which was designed to keep vital bus services running throughout the pandemic, was brought to an end in July.
While it has been followed up by the capped sum of £46m in the Bus Transition Fund, operators have said this will only support their bus provision until March 31, 2024.
It means services in Bridgend such as the X1 from Bridgend to Swansea and X3 from Port Talbot to Maesteg will be affected, with the X1 service moving from a half-hourly timetable to an hourly one, and the X3 moving from an hourly service to every 90 minutes.
In Neath Port Talbot, a string of services is set to be reduced at the end of October with one being completely withdrawn on weekdays, and others also having their operation reduced.
It has led the local council to express concerns, and fearing more reductions could follow in April 2024.
Currently, the 56 service from Neath to Pontardawe via Rhos will be withdrawn during the week, only operating on Sundays, along with the 81 service from Port Talbot to Brynbryddan, and the 82 service from Port Talbot to Golden Avenue both being cut from hourly to two-hourly.
A statement published on the First Cymru website reads: “Reductions in government funding for buses mean we’re having to make changes to our services in south and west Wales.
“Most services won’t be impacted, but we’re having to reduce bus frequencies and hours of operation on some routes, and we’re having to withdraw some others.”
Doug Claringbold, managing director at First Cymru, said: “The majority of services are unaffected, but despite our efforts to protect our customers from the impact of this reduced funding, we have no option but to reduce or stop operating some services.
“We recognise the Welsh Government has had some tough decisions to make as it changes the way it funds bus services. At the same time, we share the disappointment customers will feel from the knock- on impact that will have on some routes.”
Maesteg resident Jan Whelan, 73, says without regular buses in the area, the elderly and vulnerable who rely on them will suffer the most.
She said: “You’d like to see more buses being put on but instead they’re just being reduced or taken away, and it’s getting very difficult for people here in the valley communities who don’t drive.
“A lot of people in places like Maesteg need buses to get to where they want to go, but now in a cost-of-living crisis, they’re having to spend extra money on things like taxis just to get to work or do their shopping.
“It’s not right and I do think people are starting to feel the pinch with it now.”
Councillor Wyndham Griffiths, of Neath Port Talbot said: “We will continue lobbying the Welsh Government to increase funding for our bus services and provide transport for those who use buses regularly and those without access to private cars.
“One of the most immediate concerns is the impact on employment opportunities.
“With reduced bus services, many residents are facing substantial hurdles in accessing their places of work and this situation threatens not only the financial stability of people and their families but the economic prosperity of the region as a whole.
“We accept these are difficult financial times but we urge the Welsh Government to reconsider its allocation so public transportation here and across Wales can be accessible, reliable and viable.”