A minister has been slammed for the decision to impose “disastrous” cuts to bus services in North Wales.
Llyr Gruffydd, who represents the region in the Senedd, took aim at Lee Waters after the Deputy Minister for Climate Change defended the move.
Mr Gruffydd, of Plaid Cymru, has warned that the cuts will leave the poorest and most vulnerable people isolated after the Welsh Government confirmed its intention to scrap the Bus Emergency Scheme.
The bus scheme was put in place during the pandemic when passenger numbers plummeted and was recently extended on a temporary basis until June 2023. Passenger numbers still haven’t recovered to their pre-Covid levels, but the Welsh Government has decided to axe the scheme nonetheless.
The move by the Welsh Government would see £2.2m cut from Arriva’s bus services in North Wales and it has been estimated that it will put 330 jobs at risk.
Mr Gruffydd said that pulling this “essential” funding would be “catastrophic” for people in North Wales who rely on bus services.
He also argued that it “doesn’t make sense” scrap road building projects and cut funding for bus services at the same time.
The Plaid Cymru is calling on the Government to extend the emergency scheme for at least 18 months, to provide certainty and give providers the time to plan ahead.
During a debate in the Senedd, Mr Waters defended the decision to axe the scheme, claiming that austerity “has really put the kibosh on the whole thing”.
He also suggested that “the list of challenges is clear” but that “the list of solutions is less clear”.
Speaking after the debate, Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “I am disappointed that the Welsh Government is refusing to reverse its decision to do away with the Bus Emergency Scheme.
“This move is for bad the environment, bad for jobs and disastrous for public transport.
“These catastrophic cuts to bus services will decimate what is, for many people, in North Wales, the only form of public transport they have.
“Three quarters of all public transport journeys in Wales are made by bus, but buses get a fraction of the investment currently earmarked by the Government for rail.
“Cutting that funding further at a time of falling passenger numbers and rising costs will decimate the bus network.
“It will disproportionately disadvantage women, children and young people, the elderly, the disabled, workers on low incomes, and rural communities.
“Cutting subsidy to bus transport in the middle of a full blown cost-of-living crisis is among the most regressive acts this Labour Welsh Government has ever proposed.
“In its roads review, the Welsh Government announced that it was scrapping a number of road building projects, and apparently heralded its commitment to a historic shift in policy and priority from roads to public transport.
“Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for it to cut vital funding for bus services at this time. I urge them to protect the existing bus network while that better, fairer, greener transport network is built.”