A Statement Regarding Service 256 (Neath to Pontardawe) & Cwmtawe School Service S13December 5, 2023 4:39 pm
We would like to take a moment to explain the disruption to bus service 256 between Neath and Pontardawe, also affecting Cwmtawe Community School service S13, in recent weeks.
Service 256 has operated in its current form for many years. Previously, there were 2 different services – service 256 run by us (South Wales Transport) and service 56 run by First Cymru. We are unrelated companies, but we timed our services (individually hourly for most of the day), so that they offered a combined 30-minute service and accepted each other’s tickets free of charge for the benefit of the travelling public (despite there being no reimbursement or revenue sharing with each other). This had been in place for many years and our customers on service 256 enjoyed a reliable and punctual bus service.
During October, First Cymru made the decision to withdraw their service 56 due to funding cuts by Welsh Government, leaving our own service 256 as the only option for the travelling public. As we are unrelated companies (much like Tesco and Asda are to each other), we had no say in this decision and has nothing to do with us. Our service 256 is continuing unchanged, running to the same timetable as it has for many years successfully and until recently, punctually.
Since First’s service 56 withdrawal, our bus is stopping more frequently at bus stops than before and taking longer at those bus stops to board the additional numbers of passengers. We had underestimated how much this would affect the 256 service, and it is leading to delays also affecting school service S13 from Cwmtawe as it is operated by the same bus. Our staff are doing their best to minimise delays, but we can only do so much. There are a few hurdles to solving this problem:
- Notice must be given to the Traffic Commissioner to change the times of a bus service, normally 56 days, so it is not a quick fix
- The travelling public have already been dealt a blow by the service frequency dropping from every 30-minutes combined to hourly with some gaps in the timetable to accommodate the transport of school pupils. Changing the times so that the bus runs on time will reduce the frequency even further, will result in having even less bus journeys per day and a more confusing timetable
- Due to changes in the way Welsh Government bus funding works, the control of most bus services in Wales is in the process of moving to the Welsh Government via local authorities. This means that they will be procured to a route, frequency and timetable that is not up to the operator to decide and may even be run by a different operator by April 2024. As this process is already underway, it is difficult to make any changes to the service before then.
In conclusion, we are doing our best to manage the issues, but it has come about through no fault of our own and whilst it may seem simple to fix, it’s not as quick and straightforward as it may appear due to other factors out of our control. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and we want nothing more than to resolve it as quickly as possible, but unfortunately, it’s going to take time.