Cardiff Council concerned about Welsh Government bus franchise

An overhaul of bus services in Wales has worried Cardiff Council, owner of the capital’s bus company.

The Welsh Government is proposing the franchise of bus services across Wales, allowing local authorities to set up new municipal bus companies and easing restrictions on existing municipal bus companies, such as Cardiff Bus, to put them on the same footing as new businesses.

He also wants Transport for Wales – which was set up to oversee the private company’s operation of the rail network in Wales but became the operator itself when passenger revenues plummeted during the pandemic – to design bus networks and services with local council and government.

But the Labor Council questioned the proposal, fearing it was dictated by how a bus service should be reduced to details such as branding and ticketing.

He shared with councilors the responses he wants to send to the Welsh Government’s consultation on its white paper, ‘One Network, One Time, One Ticket: Planning buses as a public service for Wales’.

The council’s cabinet member for transportation, Cllr Daniel De’Ath, shared his thoughts during the council’s Environmental Review Committee meeting.

He said that while the council had concerns about the proposal, he added that he was “totally on board” with it as a concept. He said, “It’s a very exciting sight.”

Cllr De’Ath said: ‘I personally think it would be wonderful to see more councils with their own municipal bus companies. I find that very exciting, but the main issue is risk in the public sector.

“The risk is transferred from the private sector to the public sector, the risks related to long-term financing, the safety of public companies which obviously operate routes that for-profit companies tend to avoid.

“I felt school transport was conspicuously absent from the white paper and really I think there are still question marks over the precise control Cardiff Bus and the council would have over what would happen in the future of bus services.

“As exciting as the Welsh Government’s vision is, I don’t see it as it stands that it’s a particularly attractive offer for other councils who don’t have municipal bus companies to set them up. I think that’s really a shame and I don’t think that’s their intention.

The council will seek more information and responses from the Welsh Government on its proposals. Next week, the Cabinet of the Council will be asked to approve the response before the June 24 deadline.

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The council replied “disagree” to the consultation question, “do you agree with the Welsh Government’s preferred franchise model as described above? “.

When referring to franchising in the White Paper, the Welsh Government meant that local authorities, Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government would work together to design bus networks and services.

The consultation report reads: “The franchise authority specifies services and their operation, including routes, vehicle standards, timetables, fares, branding, passenger information and Ticketing.

“Operators will then bid for contracts to operate these services, competing in a tendering process to provide these services as efficiently and effectively as possible rather than competing for passengers at bus stops.”

In the comments section to this question, the council responded by saying, “The vast majority of bus services are local in nature and require that connection to the local community to be ‘owned’ at that level.”

The comments continued: “Unlike railways which have a national infrastructure base for track and control, control of the vast majority of highways is local in nature and, by implication, control of bus networks and of their “path” should remain at the same level”.

Cardiff Council Cabinet will meet to discuss the response to the consultation on June 23.

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