A COUNCILLOR from Caerphilly is calling for the Welsh Government to offer more support to “struggling” bus companies.

Kevin Etheridge, from Blackwood, has urged ministers to provide “clarity” and timescales for post-pandemic support for buses.

The government brought in – and later extended – emergency funding schemes for bus firms during Covid-19 lockdown periods, after stay-at-home restrictions caused passenger numbers to plummet.

But that main source of support was withdrawn in the summer, and Cllr Etheridge said local authorities were left wondering how they could “plug the gap” when the current financial year ends.

Julie James, Wales’ minister for climate change, said she had asked councils to “work up new regional bus network plans” with Transport for Wales.

South Wales Argus: Kevin EtheridgeKevin Etheridge

In a letter to the councillor, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), she said the new plans would “identify a priority network” of bus routes for “further support”.

The Welsh Government’s Bus Transition Fund, brought in to replace the Covid-era emergency funding, “ensured many key bus routes are protected”, Ms James added.

The minister said the government wanted to make local bus travel “more attractive and affordable”, and there is the “potential” to introduce flat or capped fares.

But copying England’s £2 capped fare scheme had been “hampered” by a “challenging funding settlement” from Westminster, Ms James said.

The short-term focus in Wales, therefore, would be to “ensure essential bus services are maintained for communities”, she added.

Commenting on the letter from the minister, Cllr Etheridge told the LDRS he was “disappointed” there was no information regarding timescales for projects or further potential funding available to councils.

He has now written back to the government’s climate change department – which is responsible for transport matters – to seek further information on future support for buses.