OPERATORS of a bus which has been nicknamed the "M T9" by disgruntled taxpayers seeing it run virtually empty, have served a contract termination notice.
First Cymru Buses Limited told the Vale Council, on Monday, June 9, it wanted to cease running the Welsh Government T9 Cardiff Airport bus service as of August, 16 this year.
The controversial Cardiff Airport Express takes passengers between Cardiff City Centre , Cardiff Bay and the terminal at Cardiff Airport at regular intervals throughout the day, seven days per week.
The Council will now re-tender the contract on behalf of Welsh Government as a matter of urgency to ensure a continuation of the T9 service from August, 17.
A schedule for re-tendering the contract has been agreed with Welsh Government.
During the re-tendering process the Council will work to ensure the new contract meets the recommendations of a report reviewing the T9 service which was published by the Welsh Government also on June 9.
The report, by Professor Cole of the University of South Wales, was commissioned by the Welsh Government to review the effectiveness of the new service. It found that despite a number of challenges the service has achieved all that was expected of it in delivering a fast and frequent service between the city centre and airport.
Earlier it had been announced that the service would be scaled back this winter following the review of its performance.
The Cardiff Airport service has been under fire since its launch in August 2013 with critics also calling the T9 a "ghost train", due to its often empty and expensive trips to Rhoose.
A report commissioned by the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport Edwina Hart found that the service had cost the Welsh Government £242,691 - a subsidy of £11.33 per passenger - in its first four months of operation.
The report, by Professor Stuart Cole also showed that at its busiest the bus had seen just 3.35 passengers per one-way trip, and at its lowest - during November - 2.90 passengers.
As a result of these findings the service was scheduled to now run twice an hour instead of three times an hour during the winter. During the summer it would continue running every 20 minutes.
Mrs Hart has recommended that a timetable that better reflects the airport's flight schedule is implemented. She also calls for work to begin on evaluating the benefits of extra stops and revised routes.
Welsh Conservative Leader and Vale resident Andrew RT Davies was among those who have been critical of the T9 service.
Speaking about the plan to scale back the service, Mr Davies said: "I have long felt that the T9 service was unsustainable at three times an hour. As a Vale resident I see the bus several times a day and it appears to run empty more often than not at great expense to the taxpayer.
“Worst of all, the T9’s introduction wiped out the Cardiff Bus service through Rhoose, leaving locals without a reliable bus service in that part of the Vale.
“Clearly we all want the airport to be a success and that requires strong transport links – but not at any price, and not at the expense of rural residents who were left isolated by its introduction.”
Liberal Democrat AM for South Wales Central Eluned Parrott also welcomed the news.
“I have long called for this bus route and was pleased when the government introduced it," she said. "But a bus every 20 minutes was too frequent given the low number of flights and passengers using Cardiff Airport.
“I am confident that the reduced frequency will still attract the same number of passengers as it currently does and I hope over time, that with more routes from the airport, more passengers will begin to use this service.”