Campaigners celebrate bus service reprieve
10:56am Tuesday 4th March 2014 in News
A PASSENGER-LED campaign to save one of Barry’s buses has ended with the bus company responsible giving it a reprieve.
More than 2,500 people signed a petition, organised by Barry resident Elwyn Toozer and Vale MP Alun Cairns, requesting Cardiff Bus’ 98 Highlight Park service stay on board.
The company announced the bus would continue, subject to the same reviews as all its services, and urged residents and visitors to use the bus to ensure it keeps going.
Two 98 journeys will be lost, but the 97 and 97A remain unchanged.
An early Saturday morning journey on route 94 is withdrawn and one now starts from Sully instead of Barry and for the 95 and 95A services a number of journeys start from Barry town centre instead of Barry Island or Winston Square.
The X91 service will stay the same.
Single tickets and day ticket fares are set to increase across the Cardiff and Vale network.
The company said the cuts to the Welsh Government’s All Wales Concessionary Travel Scheme meant changes were necessary due to the reduction in the reimbursement it receives.
Cardiff Bus managing director Cynthia Ogbonna said the Vale Council needed to assist with making bus travel more attractive by providing well-lit, well-maintained bus shelters and investing in real-time information as experienced in Cardiff.
She said: “We want people to use the service. We are going to stay in Barry and we want Barry to stay with us.
“It is unfortunate that we have been forced to take the decision to reduce services as a result of Welsh Government cuts in funding to the bus industry in Wales.
“The result of the latest cut in funding is that some of our routes will not cover their running costs, which means that these services are not sustainable.
“We have introduced cost-cutting measures across the whole organisation, which includes job cuts. Withdrawal of services and reducing frequencies are taken as a last resort.
“These are unfortunate, but necessary, measures to safeguard the long-term viability of the company and the comprehensive network of services we offer. “
Save the 98 Bus campaign co-ordinator Elwyn Toozer said he experienced “relief with a tinge of joy and satisfaction” on hearing the bus, valued by senior citizens, disabled, and non-car users, had been saved.
He said: “Unfortunately a price had to be paid by losing the last two services of the day due to the bus being needed in Cardiff in the afternoon and also the lack of passenger numbers on the afternoon service.
“Nevertheless this vital route continues and thanks must be given to Alun Cairns MP, Jane Hutt AM and the 2,500-plus petition signatories and collectors who demonstrated their support to the campaign against the possible discontinuation of the 98 service.
An increase in passenger numbers, though, would ensure no further threat to the service at the end of the year which could also lead to a possible increase in services if a greater demand is proven.”
Vale MP Alun Cairns praised Mr Toozer: “Without his efforts I am sure that the whole service would be lost. I am delighted that the service has been retained, but disappointed that the hours have been reduced. The last bus leaving the town centre at 1.30pm will mean that many residents will become stranded in the town centre and will not be able to return home later in the day.
“I now call on the Vale Council to review its bus services across Barry and the Vale to support essential routes.
“Some of the most vulnerable people use the bus services. Without transport older people become stranded and risk of loneliness can set in and, as I have previously talked about, the young not being able to get back and forth to school.
“I cannot believe the support of the public which shows the importance people place on bus services.”
Vale AM, Jane Hutt added: “I have been pressing to save the 98 Highlight Park Barry bus service and am extremely pleased to hear that Cardiff Bus will be protecting the service. The campaigning efforts of local resident Mr Toozer and countless others must be highly praised.”