The Economy, Transport and North Wales Minister Ken Skates has today announced urgent measures to support public transport through the coronavirus pandemic.
NHS staff will receive free travel on buses throughout Wales in return for hardship funding from the Welsh Government over the next three months, with free travel already available on Transport for Wales trains.
Transport for Wales will receive additional funding support and a hardship fund has been set up to help bus companies as passenger numbers have fallen by up to 90% as passengers follow the stay-at-home rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The combined support is worth up to £69m. Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said:
“Demand for public transport has reduced significantly as people are following the new rules to stay at home to save lives and protect our NHS.
Our rail franchise provider, bus companies and community transport operators – many of which are small businesses and charities – are facing significant financial challenges.
This support will give public transport operators the initial funding they need to continue to deliver services, pay employees and sub-contractors, while we work with them to develop a comprehensive package of measures to secure an efficient, sustainable, and robust bus network.”
The bus hardship fund will be paid monthly up-front for up to three months and will temporarily replace existing grant funding provided through the bus services support grant, mandatory concessionary fares and MyTravelPass in the normal course of business.
In return for financial support from the Welsh Government, bus companies will need to commit to continue to provide a timetabled service and all NHS staff will receive free travel. Transport for Wales is already offering free travel for NHS staff on its services.
The Minister has also confirmed that, while the stay-at-home rules are in place, free weekend travel on the Traws Cymru network has been suspended and the Cardiff to Anglesey Public Service Obligation (PSO) air service will also be suspended for three months. Mr Skates added:
“We are committed to creating a sustainable integrated public transport network across Wales.
But our priority at the moment is to protect the public, people working on public transport and our NHS. We must act now to ensure when the pandemic is over, we will have a bus and rail network to allow us to achieve this ambition.”