Festive woe for Barry bus-user shoppers
4:32pm Wednesday 18th December 2013 in News
A CAMPAIGN to save an under-threat bus service has gathered pace as the company responsible revealed it will cease operation over the festive season.
More than 1,500 people have now signed a petition to save the Cardiff Bus 98 Highlight Park Barry service from halting in April next year.
But this week Cardiff Bus announced that, as bus use drastically reduces between the Christmas and New Year period, residents would be left without the normal weekday service.
A Cardiff Bus spokesman said the company would be operating a Saturday service on Friday, December 27, Monday, December 30, and Tuesday, December 31.
He said: “As service 98 runs Monday to Friday, this will be one of the routes that will not be running.
“Service 98 is underpinned by an additional vehicle used in the Barry area at Monday to Friday peak times. As that additional peak requirement doesn’t exist during this period we operate a Saturday service to match demand. A normal service would only be possible if the Vale of Glamorgan Council could provide financial support during this period.”
Vale MP Alun Cairns said he was angry the 98 would not run over the Christmas period and will meet Cardiff Bus on Monday to raise the issue and press for change.
Mr Cairns, who has campaigned against the cuts to bus services, has linked up with Highlight Park resident Elwyn Toozer and both are due to meet with representatives of Watts Coaches, which also operates in Barry, and Cardiff Bus before Christmas.
Mr Cairns said: "Not to have a 98 service for nine days is completely unacceptable and I am concerned that it is an indication of things to come. The impact on some of our most vulnerable people should not be underestimated. It is literally a lifeline to some people. Many others depend on it to get to work or simply to access services in the centre of Barry.
“I informed the Vale cabinet when I met them last Friday (December 13), when I also called for them to reverse their cutbacks. We must demand changes.
“It seems that Cardiff Bus are withdrawing services from Barry slowly. This is unacceptable and the strength of public feeling is exceptional."
Mr Cairns and Mr Toozer, a key campaigner, have been working together for several weeks to suggest alternative changes to preserve the bus services in Barry and across the Vale. One main concern is the 98 bus which links Highlight Park, Port Road, Cwm Talwg and Buttrills with Barry town centre.
Mr Cairns said the cease in service over the festive period would cause misery for many residents.
He brought the matter of bus cuts to public attention last summer. Three public meetings were inundated with concerned residents and bus users.
He added: “The cuts to the bus operating grant by the Welsh Government are hitting services hard. When we add in the Vale Council's cutbacks, we are left with communities being stranded. I am also desperately concerned at the cutbacks to the fees bus companies get from pensioner passes.
“It is obvious to me that the decisions have been taken by people who don’t use public transport.”
Vale AM Jane Hutt said: "Bus services over the Christmas period are very important for people who rely on public transport and bus users in Barry rely particularly on the services provided by Cardiff Bus. I am raising my concerns with Cardiff Bus about timetable changes and the threatened loss of the 98 bus reminding them of the strong support for this service in Barry which so many people rely on for their daily needs."
The Vale Council had not responded at the time of going to press.