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Wrexham Council to invest £200k in bus services

Wrexham Bus Station (Source: Google Street View)

WREXHAM Council is looking to invest £200,000 to improve bus services despite being under pressure with its budget.

The authority’s executive board will be asked to support a strategy for investment in local bus services next week, something agreed in the 2023/24 budget earlier this year, with plans to add an additional £200,000 in 2024/25.

It is proposed that in ‘year one’ of the two-year investment the council helps improve on the current bus network, investing in increased evening and weekend services, which may open up local bus service for new users.

The bus services would be delivered by new or existing public transport companies on behalf of the environment department.

Cllr David A Bithell

At a media briefing ahead of the meeting, lead member for housing, Pant and Johnstown Cllr David A Bithell (Ind), also the council’s deputy leader, said despite the financial pressures currently weighing on the authority he hopes it will still be able to push ahead with this commitment.

“We’ve been lobbying Welsh Government to maintain the emergency funding over the last 12 months”, he said.

“I am pleased to say the Minister (Transport Minister Lee Waters MS) did agree to have a transitional fund and in the transitional period from the end of July to the end of March gives us a little bit of assurance over our existing services.”

“We’ve had several workshops with elected members to look at how we invest in public transport to support constituents but also our decarbonisation agenda.

“In this current financial year, we’re looking to invest our £200,000 into the local bus network. The priority for that will be building on our existing network to do evening and weekend services.

“Some of the routes now finish at 5pm or 5.30pm. Some don’t even have evening services, some don’t have weekend services and some don’t have Sunday services.

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“Examples are Llay, Minera, Rhos, Penycae – they’re the areas that are short at the moment, and it’s not just those, there are probably several others but they are examples.”

Cllr Bithell added that the following year’s funding would look to improve services in more rural communities.

He said: “Year two is to look at rural routes – Whitchurch, Penley, Glyn Ceiriog and Bronington, those sort of areas and to build on those sort of routes.

“They’re more costly, there are fewer bus services so we might have to extend those services or put new routes on.”

The council will also be lobbying bus operators to run initiatives to encourage people to take up these services such as cheaper fares, aiming to build on the boost to the local economy generated by the success of Wrexham AFC and city centre events.

But with a £23m hole in its budget forecasted for this year already, the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Cllr Bithell whether it was realistic to expect the second year’s funding would be ringfenced from cuts.

He said: “The administration is committed to the two-year approach and there is a decision in principle to support that but the reality is it would have to go through our budget discussions and it would all depend on what we’re trying to do.

“We’re trying to support our local residents, we’re trying to support jobs and protect the most vulnerable and by improving bus services that does that, as people want access to good shops and services in Wrexham.

“We’ve put an extra £1m into the road network this year. Even though we’re looking at mitigation and savings we’re still trying to invest in Wrexham as a city and our communities as well as trying to make efficient services.

“It’s a balancing act, we’re trying to do everything but I do agree we don’t know what we’re going to be faced with next year – but at the moment it is a commitment we’re trying to honour.”

The council is also hoping to see new bus operators come forward to take on services, and that people will be encouraged to use them once they have seen the investment.

The executive board meets to consider the proposal.