I recently met up with a group of very feisty ladies in Porthcawl. Led by the redoubtable Pat Williams of Clos y Deri, Nottage, the group is campaigning for better bus services in Porthcawl.
Mrs Williams has been a seasoned campaigner for some years and has scored successes in the past in getting bus services put on.
Their concerns now are to get more services restored within Porthcawl itself especially in the afternoons and on Saturdays.
To that end, I have been in touch with local bus company Peyton Travel which now provides these services on a commercial basis following BCBC’s decision to axe all bus subsidies more than 18 months ago.
Peyton assured me that they are opening up services as quickly as they can bearing in minds the limits placed on passenger numbers as a result of Covid restrictions. I hope that they will be able to restore all the services they ran previously bearing in mind that limited numbers means limited income.
I have also written to BCBC to ask if they are taking advantage of the new Bus Emergency Scheme which has just been given a further £10m by Welsh Government.
Buses are the most used form of public transport in Wales with three out of four journeys on public transport being undertaken on buses.
I have urged BCBC to apply for this additional funding to re-open some routes that have bene shut down and perhaps look at some new ones.
The ladies told me that many Nottage residents are now under the Cornelly Surgery since Dr Eales surgery closed down. But getting to Cornelly is not easy from Nottage as the former 63B bus that used to run via Nottage to and from Cornelly, Mawdlam and Ton Kenfig was scrapped by First Cymru once the subsidies were lost.
However, I have asked BCBC to look at this and see if they can try and get it re-started. At the moment, there are three buses an hour running through South Cornelly to and from Porthcawl and I have asked if one of these buses could be diverted into the Ton Kenfig route to enable Nottage residents to get to Cornelly but also to have an additional service to get into Porthcawl. Whether this happens will depend on what First Cymru wishes to do and it is obvious that the route will need subsidy from the council.
Getting to their surgery is crucial for residents but at the moment, they have to get a bus into Porthcawl and then use the bus that goes to the surgery via South Cornelly.
Longer term, I will be campaigning for the introduction of a direct bus from Porthcawl to Port Talbot and onto Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
A number of operations and procedures are carried out at this hospital under service level agreements reached between the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board and Swansea Bay. These include knee and hip operations plus the presence of the Minor Injuries Unit. But to get there, at the moment, Porthcawl residents have to catch a bus into Bridgend, a bus to Port Talbot and then a bus to the hospital. And if they live in Nottage, they need to travel into Porthcawl first – a total of four buses each way!
I believe that Bridgend borough needs a comprehensive bus strategy that will take us past the Covid crisis and into a new era where buses are funded by local authorities and Welsh Government because in an age where people are being urged to use public transport instead of private cars, it is vital that there are actually buses and trains that they can use.
Well, Porthcawl has no rail link – that was lost in the 1960’s – but I am keen to improve connectivity not only within the town itself but with neighbouring towns and areas.
I believe that Porthcawl has unfairly borne the brunt of bus cuts as subsidies have been removed and it’s time that this stopped and that proper bus services are once again provided with whatever subsidies are needed to keep them going if they are not commercially viable.