Arriva to cut bus links by Christmas

ARRIVA Buses Wales are to sever vital student transport links during Christmas break.

Blaming “instability regarding public transport funding” and “spiralling fuel costs”, Arriva Buses Wales have announced they are to close their Aberystwyth depot, in addition to stations at New Quay, Lampeter and Dolgellau.

In a statement Arriva announced the resulting closure of services 20, 40, 40C, 50, 585 and X94, severing links between Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Lampeter, Swansea, and Newquay.

Pending a period of “consultation”, all buses will be cancelled on 21st December with the exception of the 585, which will continue to run until 15th February. Drivers were informed on Tuesday morning, with 46 jobs on the line.

This has drawn a sharp response from local politicians and student representatives. With the closure timed as it is, it has been warned that students may face more complicated and expensive train journeys on their return to university after the Christmas break.

Mark Williams, Lib Dem MP for Ceredigion, criticised Arriva for the “shock decision” to cancel all but one of their services, leaving Aberystwyth residents “well and truly in the lurch.”

“Arriva have been at great pains to emphasise to me in the past their commitment in our area. Those commitments look meaningless now, and I believe they have behaved shamefully towards their workforce and the wider community.”

Laura Dickens, Welfare Officer at Aberystwyth University Students’ Union, criticised the timing of the closures. “The cuts are due to come at a time when students will want to be using the services most. This loss of services could mean as much as 5 hour-long complicated journeys to such places as Swansea and Cardiff.”

She said that students in Aberystwyth and Lampeter “suffer from a shortage of transport links as it is, and we should be looking to increase services, not cut them. We will definitely be making our objections evident and intend to fight for bus services to stay.”

Ioan Rhys Evans, the President of the Students’ Union has predicted chaos for those trying to reach South Wales after the cutbacks.

“It would have a massively detrimental effect on student life in Aberystwyth. If you don’t have a car then the bus was the easier solution. “It’s going to be bedlam getting down to South Wales.”

William Powell, Lib Dem AM for Mid and West Wales and Chair of the National Assembly’s Petitions Committee, spoke out against the “rural transport crisis” that this closure represents.

“I am appalled by Arriva’s decision to withdraw these essential bus routes in Ceredigion. Each week hundreds of people depend on these routes for work, school and university, shopping and visiting family members.”

Meanwhile the Welsh government themselves were more reticent, a spokesperson saying that while they are “naturally disappointed” by Arriva’s proposal, it is a “commercial matter for the company”.

558 people signed a petition calling on the Welsh government “to restore and/or improve rail and bus links between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth”; one of “a number of petitions” William Powell AM has received, adding that “it is vital that their views are taken into account as this process continues”.