Maesteg residents 'deeply affected by lack of transport' after cuts to 'lifeline' bus services

Local councillor Ross Penhale-Thomas has described the situation as a “perfect storm" Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Bus services in Maesteg which have been described as "a lifeline" have been limited, leaving some residents "stressed" and "worried" over the town's "lack of transport".

The changes in the bus network come as a result of The Welsh Government’s Bus Transition Fund (BTF) which will run from July to the 31st of March 2024.

The BTF replaced the funding previously available through the Bus Emergency scheme, which was set up to support operators after the drop in bus use due to the pandemic. 

Although the BTF is in place to ensure that vital services can continue across the bus network, residents of Maesteg have reported disruption to what has been described as a "lifeline".

Bridgend County Borough Council said: “The council was forced to stop subsidising local bus service routes (by £148K) in 2019 as a consequence of a reduction in funding and a need to make further significant long term savings due to the challenges of the national financial climate.

“It’s a perfect storm”

According to local councillor Ross Penhale-Thomas: “Over the last two or three months, issues have been raised because of the withdrawal of Welsh Government funding and support for commercial bus companies, like First Bus which covers Maesteg and Bridgend county.“ 

He said that the situation is a “perfect storm" with the three main stakeholders; the Welsh Government, local authority, and First bus and a “vicious circle” of lack of funding, and a lack of taxpayers money being able to go to public transport.

“The last bus is around 5pm which is absolutely crazy. This is a town of 21,000 people. The train network is really unreliable. People have complained about random cancellations or services being terminated in Tondu so that Maesteg passengers are left stranded.”

“Its had a big effect on her social life”

Paul Clements is a local resident and has explained to ITV Cymru Wales how the bus cuts affect both of his daughters. 

His 17 year old struggles to get the bus to college in the morning as “it’s so full” and she cannot get home from work in the evenings due to there being no buses available in the evening. 

The bus cuts have also affected his 13 year old daughter: “It’s had a big effect on her social life.” 

Another resident also spoke about the affect it's having on her child, saying: “She became very stressed and was unable to sleep, worrying about the fact that she would not make it to Bridgend on time”

Due to the stress caused by the thought of being late to college, Rhiannon Hopcutt’s daughter has chosen to use railway services to get to college. 

The bus services have also proven to affect her son's ability to get to college, being so full that his bus “drove straight past him.” 

16 year old college student, Ffion Watts said that she has been “deeply affected by the lack of transport” in her area. 

She’s previously decided to change from using the train to taking the bus, due to “people acting disorderly, resulting in the train terminating 20 minutes before its destination.”

However, Ffion’s journey to, and from college in Neath will be disrupted, including having to wait later for the bus.

In response to this, Transport for Wales said: “Following the completion of driver training, the Maesteg line will receive new Class 197s early next year on an interim basis ahead of the introduction of new Class 231s.

“We're in discussions with Bridgend County Borough Council about their aspirations for transport in Maesteg, and how we can best support them.

“We're also in discussions with Bridgend County Borough Council and Network Rail to consider options for improved service frequencies for train services to and from Maesteg. These options are at an early stage in their development.”

One woman said that she waited for her bus for an hour until she returned home. Upon calling the bus company they told her that they’d taken the bus off service that morning. 

“I had to miss a doctor’s appointment again because the bus services are absolutely ridiculous.”

“If you’re not on social media you don’t know anything. At the end of the day you can be standing on that bus stop for over an hour waiting for the next bus to come. 

“It’s frightening. You can’t rely on the bus services in Maesteg anymore.” 

Another resident expressed how the cuts are “making it harder to find work” outside the town. 

The service provider, First Cymru, which operates 108 routes in South and West Wales, has reduced and withdrawn services and will continue with more changes coming to schedules on the 29th of October. 

First Cymru have made it clear that the changes made to the Wales network “are a result of reduced government funding for buses” and reduced passenger numbers. 

 “We’ve had to look at the whole network to see where changes can be made within the reduced budget, and that, of course, means that we must look at underperforming routes.

“The reduced funding available through the Bus Transition Fund has meant local authorities have asked us to look at how we can change our network within the constraints of a reduced funding package.”

In response to the disruption caused by the change in funding, a Welsh Government spokesperson said, “We’ve provided the bus industry with more than £200m to support it through the pandemic and beyond.

“We continue to work with Transport for Wales and local authorities to provide more stable services. Our new bus legislation will set out how we intend to transform the way bus services are planned and delivered in the future.”

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