The cuts to the bus services, reportedly due to a shortage of drivers, in Ceredigion on the T5 and T1 are causing major problems for bus passengers. Ceredigion Green Party acknowledges that our political representatives are aware of the inconveniences but being aware is not enough. There is a lot that can be done by them.
Last week at the main bus stop in Aberystwyth, a fairly large number of passengers was waiting in anticipation of boarding the 14.40 T1 service, which is currently non-existent, and were then joined by another set of hopeful passengers for the 15.10 T5 service, both in a southerly direction. One of our members happened to have travelled from Machynlleth and realised these people were all waiting in vain. Two passengers told her they had travelled from north Wales, one of these had to get to Cardiff in order to help her ill daughter. They had both travelled on the T2 which had broken down and they were subsequently put in a taxi to get to Aberystwyth where they missed the T1 connection by 2 minutes. They had a two hour wait for the next T1. The T5 hopefuls were tourists who had no idea that there was no 15.10. One of those needed to travel to Aberporth but was informed that the following service would not go through Aberporth so she had a further complication of having to travel from Cardigan back to Aberporth. Readers may ask why the passengers from north Wales didn’t jump on a train. They both explained that they live on Universal Credits and simply can’t afford train fares.
Those are just a few stories. There were others. What can our AM, Elin Jones, and our MP, Ben Lake, do about this? What can our own local Ceredigion County Council do about this? In the first place, they can sit down with the companies involved, First Cymru and Richard Bros, and with the TrawsCymru management, to co-ordinate these cuts. There shouldn’t be two service cuts in a row at one time of the day. One elderly lady from Llanfarian waiting too in Aberystwyth, who only knew about the T1 cuts thanks to the report in the Cambrian News said, “How are we supposed to get to doctors’ appointments if we don’t know the full details of these cuts? It is very difficult to cope just with shopping now.” The cuts also disproportionately affect passengers in certain places such as Pencarreg, Cwmann and the east of Lampeter where residents are left without a bus for 6 hours. This is totally unacceptable. Our member spoke to a bus driver who highlighted the total fiasco that the companies have made. “I have to drive a bus to Carmarthen and then drive a car back when I could be driving a bus back!”
Harry Hayfield, who stood for the Green Party in the recent Senedd elections, has experienced three buses not turning up following the cancellation of the service that was only notified on social media. “Many people do not participate in social media, especially the elderly, and we all know about the lack of internet access and mobile phone signal. We shouldn’t have to rely on modern technology to get our information,” argues Harry.
Ceredigion Green Party has been campaigning for better buses for many years. They wrote a report back in 2008 called ‘Ceredigion, Better Buses for All’. As a result, one of our members, Elly Foster, was appointed to the Public Transport Users’ Committee where she worked tirelessly to improve the experience of bus passengers. As Elly says, “In 2010 the then Minister accepted our committee’s recommendations on information for bus passengers. They have never been implemented. It is a disgrace.” The least our local council can do is put up proper notifications of the current cuts in prominent bus shelters such as Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, New Quay, Cardigan and Lampeter. The lady from Llanfarian asked for simple paper timetables to be handed out on the bus. Lots of money has been spent on new electronic displays but the one in Aberystwyth wasn’t even working. And as Elly says, “The new display in Aberaeron is at one end of the pavement with the timetable facing away from the passengers. It is in a useless position. On top of that, the old electronic display is still ‘working’, frequently showing the wrong information! Why doesn’t the council remove it?”
We have a climate emergency on our hands. All the political parties talk the talk but when it comes to implementing practical solutions such as making buses the transport mode of choice by creating a brilliant service, they fall flat on their faces. It really isn’t good enough for our politicians to wring their hands. And as Harry points out, “A car journey from Aberystwyth to Cardigan only carrying one person, emits 10kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; however on a bus that same journey would only emit 1.25kg per passenger.” Besides that, when it comes to bus transport, it needs to be acknowledged that it is the poorer members of our society who have to deal with these difficulties, as if they haven’t got enough to cope with already. Since the start of lockdown, many of our bus services have quietly dropped off the schedule, especially the later services. Can we expect all these services to return to normal seeming we are as workers and students and tourists expected to return to normal?