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Newport Council ‘effectively subsidising’ bus fares from central station

Newport central bus station, Friars Walk section (Pic: LDRS)

NEWPORT is facing a £225,000 loss of revenue next year to “effectively subsidise” bus fares for passengers leaving the city’s main station.

Bus companies pay a departure fee to the city council every time one of their vehicles leaves the station.

That fee, reportedly 75p per route, hasn’t been raised for several years, members of the council’s performance scrutiny committee for place and corporate were told on Monday January 15.

The decision to not increase the charge had less of an impact on the council’s finances during the pandemic because bus travel was propped up by Welsh Government emergency funding.

That money tapered off in 2023/24, and consequently companies have made some cuts to routes, meaning fewer buses are passing through the central station and paying the charge.

Paul Jones, the council’s strategic director, said the difference between what the departure fee raised in recent years and what it would raise now there was a “slightly reduced number” of buses was an estimated £225,000.

The council is unlikely to increase the departure fee, however, because it could have a knock-on effect of forcing more cuts to bus services – meaning even fewer buses might pass through the central station and pay the charge.

Committee chairman Mark Howells was among those who expressed concern about the policy.

He said Newport City Council was “effectively subsidising bus fares” and spending “near enough a quarter of a million quid… to keep people’s bus fares low”.

Gavin Horton, a committee member, told colleagues members of the public should know about the spending – a policy he suggested “might not be something they want us to do”.

And committee colleague Kate Thomas said it would be “unfair” to taxpayers if they had to effectively make up for the loss in revenue.

But Mr Jones told the committee Newport Council’s departure fee was “quite high by a Welsh standard” and any increase could be passed on to passengers.

This could then “reduce the number of people on the bus”, he said, adding: “We predict there would be quite a significant reduction in buses, then, running in Newport.”