Make all public transport in Wales free for those under 25, say Liberal Democrats
Public transport in Wales should be made free for all young people under 25 to support efforts to cut carbon emissions and boost social mobility and job opportunities, say the Liberal Democrats.
The party said the policy would cost the Welsh Government around £132million a year to fund, equivalent to less than 1% of the Welsh Government’s overall grant.
He calculated that providing free bus travel to young people would see the Welsh government pay bus operators – who before the pandemic received around £100m in grants and reimbursements for free bus passes for young people. pensioners and people with disabilities each year from Cardiff Bay Authority – around £56m and £76m for trains.
Welsh government transport company Transport for Wales now manages the Wales & Borders rail franchise after enacting the last resort scheme operator to succeed it KeolisAmey last year.
KeolisAmey, like other train operating companies across the UK, has seen its franchise business model derailed by the pandemic with passenger numbers falling dramatically. During the pandemic, the Welsh government has increased funding for bus companies and the devolved rail franchise. Before the pandemic, the Wales & Borders franchise received a public grant funded by the Welsh Government of around £166million.
Should public transport be free for everyone under 25 in Wales?
0+ VOTES SO FAR
The Liberal Democrats say public transport is being neglected by both the Conservative government in Westminster and the Labour-Plaid Cymru administration in Wales and the policy would help groups who rely on public transport to get ahead , to uplift young people as we come to end the pandemic and reduce CO2 emissions and dangerous levels of air pollution.
Between 2009 and 2019 (before the pandemic), there was a 22% drop in the number of bus journeys in Wales. The Liberal Democrats said Wales also continues to have the highest proportion of people driving to work (estimated at around 75-80%). he said one of the biggest barriers to public interchange to use public transport in Wales is its high cost.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds MS said: ‘Providing free public transport to those under 25 gives us a radical means of getting large swaths of the population out of private cars and into transport durable.
“Transport is one of the biggest polluters in Wales. We must do all we can to get people to use public transport and reduce traffic and congestion. In return, we would see a reduction in the deadly air pollution that affects our health.
“As well as helping to tackle climate change, this policy can help reduce Wales’ high poverty rates and give young people the boost they need as we emerge from the pandemic.
“We want to make sure no one in Wales faces barriers to accessing key public services, getting the job they want or seeking the opportunities they deserve and affordable and accessible transport is a key part of remove these barriers.
“This is particularly true for young people in Wales who are too often forced to work for lower wages.”
The Liberal Democrat said he supports the Welsh Government’s current free bus pass offer for pensioners in Wales.
Currently, Transport for Wales offers free off-peak travel for under-16s, and a Saver 16-17 rail pass which offers 50% off Standard Season, Off-Peak, Advance and Anytime tickets.
In September 2015, the Welsh Government introduced a voluntary bus fare reduction scheme for 16 to 18 year olds in Wales called My Travel Pass. This has been extended so that a third of bus fare reductions are now available to young Welsh people aged 16-21.
More than 18,000 passes were issued for this program before the pandemic.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Getting more young people to travel by train and bus is essential to help reduce congestion, journey time and pollution.
“There are already a number of promotions in place and we are always looking for new ways to incentivize the use of public transport as we move towards a stronger, greener and fairer Wales.”