The fflecsi Bwcabus service is due to end on 31 October 2023.
The news comes after the Welsh Government confirmed that it would not be able to contribute to the scheme following the ending of the Rural Development Programme (RDP)Grant that had been supporting it until the end of June this year.
Since the RDP funding came to an end the Welsh Government has been fully funding the service.
Discussions have taken place over 18 months between officers from Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion County Councils and officials from the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales.
Welsh Government secured new buses for these services as recently as July 2023 and there was a level of optimism that things were progressing positively. The news that there is no funding available to support the services moving forward is, therefore, a surprising and significant blow to users in the most rural areas of West Wales.
The fflecsi Bwcabus (previously Bwcabus) has been operating for 14 years providing an opportunity to travel by public transport in some of the most rural areas of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The service was provided in partnership between the local authorities, Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government, and had been thought to align with the Welsh Government’s vision for rural transport solutions as outlined in its transport policy, Llwybr Newydd.
Councillor Keith Henson Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Environmental Services and Carbon Management said “This service operates in the Ward I represent so I know how this will affect people. While we welcome the ambition and aspiration the Welsh Government has set out in its Transport Plan, Llwybr Newydd, in rural areas, as we are unfortunately seeing a loss or reduction of service because the investment simply isn’t there at the required levels to maintain services such as this. We will continue in our lobbying of the Welsh Government to ensure that rural areas get a fair slice of the cake, and that the challenges associated with accessing public transport in rural areas are recognised and that Welsh Government guarantee that sufficient resources and funding is provided to ensure that they are met”.
Councillor Edward Thomas, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Waste and Infrastructure Services commented “I’m extremely sad and disappointed at the loss of a great service that should be receiving continued support. The service offered a level of travel opportunity by bus that could not be met by other means. The rural nature of the areas served with a low population density means that there isn’t the critical mass of people wanting to travel at the same time to the same places which means traditional bus services just don’t work. Unfortunately, it now seems that this innovative approach which aligns with the vision within Llwybr Newydd isn’t sustainable either. I would like to thank all the staff and operators involved with providing the service for over 14 years. I can only sympathise with them and the passengers who will be affected by this and can promise them that, working with the key stakeholders most notably the Welsh Government, we will continue in our endeavours to find workable affordable solutions to those affected”.
Councillor Rhys Sinnett Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services said “We are saddened to see the loss of this service, and are concerned about the impact this will have on the rural north east of Pembrokeshire. We will support our neighbouring colleagues in pressing the Welsh Government to support bus service provision in this area, and also look at what workable solutions there may be for this provision”.
The fflecsi Bwcabus has been an innovative and national award-winning service which offered a level of travel opportunities both to local centres and as a means of accessing other bus services, most notably the TrawsCymru, at key hubs.
A confirmed date of when the service will end will be released once the position regarding Welsh Government funding is known.