AN ARGUMENT has broken out between a Labour Welsh Government minister and a major bus company over the proposed closure of a depot.
Labour’s Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, says he doesn’t believe the reasons given by Stagecoach South Wales for the closure of the Brynmawr depot.
But Stagecoach hit back, saying Mr Davies must be the only person in Wales who can’t see the impact Welsh Government cuts to bus services are having on daily life in the country.
Meanwhile Wales’ first minister Carwyn Jones told the Senedd it was ironic when private firms rely on public cash to make profits.
The bus giant announced in April that it was closing the Brynmawr depot this summer, putting 77 jobs at risk, and is also cutting a number of services.
Stagecoach accused the Welsh Government of being directly responsible, claiming it cut bus service support by 25 per cent last year.
But the Blaenau Gwent AM, who released a strongly-worded statement following a meeting with the firm, claimed Stagecoach had used cuts to concessionary bus subsidies as a smokescreen for something “they already wanted to do”.
“I don’t believe the reasons Stagecoach have given publicly for the closure of Brynmawr are true,” said Mr Davies, who is natural resources minister.
He accused the firm of making a “profit from the public purse for years” and having done “very well out of the taxpayer”.
Mr Davies said: “I have asked [Stagecoach South Wales MD] John Gould to show me the figures, show me how the business case stacks up and how it is necessary to inflict these cuts. He has so far refused.”
In response a Stagecoach spokesman said that Mr Davies “must be the only person in the country who can’t see the truth and the impact on daily life in Wales of years of cuts to investment in bus services by the Welsh Government.”
The spokesman said most of the company’s services are delivered commercially without any public support, “as Mr Davies knows full well”.
He added: “It is disappointing that instead of supporting bus workers whose jobs are at risk and and making the case for more public investment in vital bus services... Mr Davies is resorting to playing politics.”
Lynne Neagle, Labour AM for Torfaen, told the Senedd yesterday about “huge concern” in Torfaen about the loss of the Stagecoach route 30 that runs from Cwmbran to Brynmawr – although an alternative operator could take it over.
She put to the first minister, Carwyn James, that “we need to be investigating all options... so operators like Stagecoach can’t cherrypick profitable routes when they cut and run from others”.