In April it was announced that Ceredigion and Vale of Glamorgan Councils had each won £100,000 worth of funding to run rural transport pilot projects.
In Ceredigion’s case, part of this is now being used to run Cludiant Cors Caron - a free transport scheme in the Tregaron area.
In the public transport game, £100,000 doesn’t actually buy very much and is being given in the context of an overall 25% loss of bus funding across Wales. So making the best use of resources is essential. The Council quickly recognised that there were already a number of small buses running regularly in the area specifically to transport people to social services and health venues. It made absolutely sense that these regular journeys, taking place anyway for particular client groups, should be properly timetabled and opened up to the wider community.
Cludiant Cors Caron Services are now timetabled and run for the wider community on a dial-a ride basis, with Ystwyth Community Transport Group being funded to co-ordinate the scheme.
The next pilot project, and one which will arguably have a greater effect, is the extension of child fairs on buses up to the age of 21. This will allow all young people in Ceredigion - a key group in terms of access to transport - to reach work and training more cheaply. Local buses companies, to their credit, have recognised the potential and agreed to take part and a scheme is due to commence early in the new year.
The key issue for rural areas is that, because of their relatively low population, bus services are never likely to be economically viable in the conventional sense of making a profit. And yet those services are absolutely vital for people who are unable to drive, particularly the elderly, the young and the less well-off. Without these people being able to get about, rural life would start to break down.
At a time when many public services are being cut, not least in rural areas, buses are becoming even more important for people to be able to access remaining services. Along with Bwcabus - now running across roughly half of Ceredigion - these latest pilot projects will help to inform Welsh Government’s thinking about how to target support for rural areas and, if successful, may be extended into other parts of Wales.