THE Cardi Bach bus service, which is due to be scrapped next month after funding ran out, may have been thrown a lifeline.
During questions in the Senedd on Wednesday, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, said funding for the Cardi Bach will continue as part of the T5 procurement.
The comment came following concerns raised by Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru MS for Mid & West Wales, who called for the overarching Fflecsi Bwcabus service to be reinstated, after it was announced last week the service, which is a lifeline for many rural communities in west Wales, is set to be terminated on 31 October.
The fflecsi Bwcabus (previously Bwcabus) has been operating for 14 years, serving rural parts of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire.
It provides an essential service for many residents without access to cars or the main public transport network to reach other villages and towns for work, shopping, and medical treatment.
The service was previously funded by Rural Development Programme funding, however, has since been fully funded by the Welsh Government service.
As part of the funding arrangement, Welsh Government secured new buses for these services for the services as recently as July 2023 and there was a level of optimism that things were progressing positively.
However, it was announced last week service will end on the 31 October 2023.
The announcement has been greeted with a great deal of concern within rural communities, and a petition launched this week calling for the service to be saved has already reached over eight hundred signatories.
Speaking in the Senedd in following his tabling of an urgent question, Cefin Campbell, urged the Welsh Government to reconsider their position, commenting:
“Communities across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have been shocked by the announcement that Government funding for the Bwcabus service is coming to an end, and that the service itself will be terminated at the end of October. For years, this unique service has been a priceless resource for so many residents across west Wales. Truth be told, the service is more than a bus; in several cases, this is the only way that people can reach medical appointments, can go to the shops and socialise.
"The irony is that we hear the Government speaking time and time again about the importance of public transport to connect communities and the positive impact that that then has on the environment. But what happens is that these vital services are being cut, especially in rural areas. So, may I urge you to work hard to ensure that this service is re-established, and to provide long-term assurance for this very important scheme."
Concerns regarding the Welsh Government’s decision to cease funding for the service were also raised earlier this week by Ceredigion politicians.
Ben Lake MP said: “It is deeply disappointing to hear the announcement about the Bwcabus service coming to an end. Whilst passenger numbers may seem low on paper, the reality is that this service in Ceredigion is a lifeline to those who use it.
"The Welsh Government needs to prioritise the funds they do have to ensuring we’re not preventing our residents from being able to do the essentials in life, such as travelling to work, accessing medicines and food.”
Elin Jones MS added: “This is a devastating blow to passengers who completely rely on the Bwcabws, especially for those who have no other travel options. The Bwcabus for many is also the only link they have to other bus services, so it’s importance as part of the network here in Ceredigion shouldn’t be undervalued. It’s crucial now that all the agencies involved come together to examine all available solutions to try to save this invaluable service.”
Responding to Cefin Campbell’s question, Lee Waters MS, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change said: “I was very sorry to hear that the Bwcabus service will be coming to an end. Despite promises that Wales would be not worse off after Brexit, the UK Government has failed to replace funding for rural transport schemes previously supported by the EU. We're therefore unable to continue supporting Bwcabus, but we are working with Transport for Wales and the local authorities to explore alternative options.
"We've worked very hard with the bus industry and with local authorities over the summer to try and safeguard as many services as possible, and I'm pleased to say, for example, that funding for the 'Cardi Bach' in Ceredigion will continue as part of the TfW T5 procurement.
"And we will work closely with community transport and with local authorities to see if there are elements of this scheme that can be salvaged. It did have light usage but it was, as he said, a lifeline for those who did use it, and I regret very much that it's come to an end."
Ceredigion County Council has been asked for a comment on the future of the Cardi Bach service.