Coronavirus: Free NHS Wales staff travel as bus firms helped out

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image sourceAlan Sansbury
image captionMinisters in Wales are also working on a "comprehensive package of measures" to ensure a robust bus network

NHS staff will receive free travel throughout Wales as part of a deal which will see struggling bus operators get help from the Welsh Government.

The commitment for free bus travel for NHS workers is part of a £69m hardship fund for companies struggling with dramatic drops in passenger numbers.

It follows stay-at-home rules for all but key workers due to coronavirus.

Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates said: "Our rail franchise provider, bus companies and community transport operators - many of which are small businesses and charities - are facing significant financial challenges."

He added: "This support will give public transport operators the initial funding they need to continue to deliver services, pay employees and sub-contractors."

Mr Skates said ministers were also working with companies to develop a "comprehensive package of measures to secure an efficient, sustainable, and robust bus network."

Bus companies will be paid each month up front, for the next three months.

It will replace, for the time being, existing grant funding arrangements.

image sourceJaggery/Geograph
image captionCardiff Bus is owned by Cardiff council

How will the new bus funding arrangements work?

For three months, companies must commit to:

  • Timetables - with contracts to be agreed with councils - which are enough to allow critical workers to get to work and those without a car to get to shops for essential food and medical supplies
  • No bus will carry more than 50% of its maximum capacity
  • To match the offer announced on TfW rail services, all NHS workers who use a scheduled bus service will travel free of charge
image sourceTFW
image captionTransport for Wales is the body overseeing the all-Wales rail franchise, operating since October 2018

What about rail in Wales?

  • The UK Government is taking direct control of English train operating companies for the next six months
  • Transport for Wales (TfW) is also receiving additional funding support as part of the package. Wales has a different contractual model, with TfW set up to deliver more than just train services and provides measures to upgrade infrastructure and manage a new Metro service
  • The Welsh Government said it would work closely with TfW and TfW Rail Services on the details of the mechanism, which is "expected to evolve further over the coming weeks"

Mr Skates also said that while stay-at-home rules are in place, free weekend travel on the Traws Cymru bus network has been suspended, along with the Cardiff to Anglesey air link under public service obligation arrangements.

The minister added: "Our priority at the moment is to protect the public, people working on public transport and our NHS."

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