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Council to use own vehicles to ‘top up’ bus services

Two Welsh councils will each receive £100,000 in 2014-15 to test more efficient ways to co-ordinate conventional bus, community transport and local authority services – including the use of council vehicles to help people access health and social care. 

Major bus operators have been cutting services in Wales as subsidies fall. 

During the year-long trials, the Vale of Glamorgan council will investigate how to encourage new fare-paying passengers to use rural public transport; establish a scheduling and booking system for public transport, with ICT support; identify on-road infrastructure improvements, such as new bus stops; establish a collaborative team to procure and manage services to reduce costs; and evaluate the potential for discounted bus travel for young people and those not in employment, education or training. 

Ceredigion council will also trial a number of new services, including improved public transport in remote communities around Tregaron. This will include the use of the council’s in-house fleet of vehicles to support local bus services and to provide transport to health and social care. The council will work with Hywel Dda Local Health Board to integrate patient appointment times with bus services. It will also explore the scope for discounted travel for young people, aged 16 to 21. 

Throughout the pilot schemes both councils will work together to share their findings and collaborate on ideas, also identifying best practice from other local authorities. 

Both councils will use the pilot schemes to evaluate the costs and benefits of discounted travel for young people to access jobs and training. 

Edwina Hart, the Welsh transport minister, said: “I want to ensure everyone in Wales is able to access jobs and services via reliable public transport. We must start looking at new and innovative ways of delivering these services, particularly in rural areas, by means of a sustainable and efficient network. I am pleased that the Vale of Glamorgan and Ceredigion councils are working with us to progress this vital piece of work.” 

The Bus Policy Advisory Group will review the new services based on an agreed set of criteria and advise the minister on the success of the various initiatives. 

Hart has also announced that the budget for the new Bus Services Support Grant will be £25m for 2014-15, the same amount as in 2013-14 for the Regional Transport Services Grant, which it replaces. The grant scheme is to enable local authorities to support socially-necessary bus and community transport services.  

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