WALES’ biggest bus operator, Stagecoach, today threatened a legal challenge over plans by the Welsh Government to make "brutal, flawed and unlawful cuts" to the country's concessionary travel scheme.

The company has given the Welsh Government a deadline of April 1 to re-think its decision to set a new rate at which bus operators are reimbursed, which would result in a £24 million cut in the scheme's budget, or face a potential judicial review.

According to Stagecoach, lawyers have written to 10 local authorities in Wales including Newport, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire, who are responsible for implementing the concessionary travel scheme, pointing out that following the Welsh Government’s new guidance would be unlawful.

Last month, the Welsh Government, confirmed a three-year funding package of £189m for its bus travel scheme which provides free travel to more than 720,000 concessionary pass holders in across Wales. The budget has been cut by over 11 per cent from the £213.3m package provided over the past three years.

John Gould, managing director of Stagecoach in Wales, said: “We want to protect people from the devastating impact of these brutal, flawed and unlawful cuts.

“Ministers will be collectively responsible for job losses and cutting people off from accessing vital education, employment and health facilities."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The new rate, recommended by an independent review, maintains the principle that bus operators who take part in the scheme are no better and no worse off. Any operator who believes they may be adversely affected by a local authority’s reimbursement arrangements have the right to appeal to Welsh Ministers.”