Huw Irranca-Davies MS asks the First Minister: “What measures will the First Minister take to give greater influence over bus services to the people of Wales?”

First Minister

We will bring forward a bus Bill to reform the failed system of deregulation. That will enable all levels of government to work with our communities to design and deliver bus services they need.

Huw Irranca-Davies MS

Thank you, First Minister, and we’re looking forward to having that bus Bill in front of us, because one of the greatest frustrations for us as representatives, but also for local people, is that they have no real say over where the routes run and at what times of the day to get them to their jobs, to get them to hospitals, to get them to visit friends, particularly in the northern parts of the valleys in my constituency, but we’ll all feel it throughout the whole of Wales. But one of the other big frustrations is that there is one part of the UK that has retained the powers to do that. When we had that disastrous—utterly disastrous—deregulation back in the 1980s, where the powers were stripped away from any democratic input into control over buses and routes and services and so on, one place kept it and it was London. And, in London, the passenger numbers have gone up, the routes have been sustained, investment has been massive. Everywhere else, it is has fallen away. So, can we have the assurance that that Bill will come forward? And can he clarify for us what that will mean for people to have an input into where the routes that serve their communities go and that keeps their lives and their livelihoods—give some chance to sustain them?

First Minister

Well, Llywydd, I’m very pleased to give the Member an assurance that that Bill is in the final stages of its preparation. It’s a complex Bill, but it will come in front of the Senedd. One of the fundamental ways in which it will change the bus landscape in Wales is this: the system we have inherited and the system that we have run up until now is one that pays in a subsidy per journey, per passenger. That is a very difficult system for Government because it is inherently uncertain and you will never know how much the system will cost, and it is difficult for companies as well, because they don’t have predictability about it. The future will be about subsidising routes, not individuals, so that we will have a planned, agreed, stable and subsidised system of bus transport here in Wales, so that for those routes that are socially necessary—and that’s how we will be consulting the public, of course, in that we will be looking to see their views of those routes that are socially necessary—but not commercially viable, we will continue to invest the tens of millions of pounds that are put into the system today but in a way that does not give the public an adequate return on that investment. That is what the Bill will allow us to do.

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