NORTH Wales Senedd Members have called for a pragmatic approach to be taken to 20mph along arterial routes across the region.

Carolyn Thomas MS and Mark Isherwood MS have both raised the issue in the Senedd following an announcement from Arriva that bus routes across the region will be changed following a punctuality review. 

The bus operator has taken the decision to cut out Llandegla village along the Services 51 and x51, Rhyl to Wrexham in order to make up the additional five to seven minutes added to the journey time by an accumulation of newly implemented 20mph limits. 

Carolyn Thomas MS has attended community meetings in the village to hear the views of local residents and has been working on their behalf to find a practical solution. She has also met with Arriva and union representatives at the bus depot to hear more about the challenges they are facing regarding punctuality. 

Cooperating with stakeholders including local authorities, Transport for Wales and Welsh Government, Ms Thomas hopes that arterial roads along the route could be made back up to 30mph where it is safe and makes sense to do so. 

Speaking in the Senedd chamber on Tuesday, she asked the First Minister: “We know there is variation across Wales in terms of the roads that have remained at 30mph. The review is going to look at this issue, and that we need to engage with our partners in local government and bus operators as part of that. 

Rhyl Journal: Carolyn Thomas MSCarolyn Thomas MS

“We've seen that the regional scrums and the corporate joint committees are working well in terms of bringing local authorities together in dealing with some of the challenges facing the bus industry in Wales. 

“First Minister, do you agree with me that they provide an ideal forum for that detailed discussion for looking at the impact of speed limits on arterial routes and punctuality, as well as helping to identify areas where bus priority measures could make a real difference?”

The First Minister responded: “I very much agree with the point that Carolyn Thomas has made about bus priority measures being the right answer to making sure that buses are able to move through communities, particularly where there is a great deal of traffic. That's why the Welsh Government has provided millions of pounds in this year's budget, and will do so again in next year's budget, to help local authorities with the costs of creating bus priority lanes to allow public transport to move swiftly through those areas. 

“But I also agree with the point that Carolyn Thomas made, Llywydd. I think she echoed, in a way, a point I was trying to make in my original answer, which is that a partnership approach between the responsibilities of the Welsh Government and the responsibilities of local authorities will fine-tune this policy, and iron out any anomalies that have been apparent in the first months of its operation. 

“I think regional working between local authorities based on corporate joint committees and those regional arrangements that have been put in place for bus services is a very sensible way for this to go, and in the review that we'll be carrying out of the guidance that the Welsh Government has provided we will certainly be engaging with local authorities on those regional footprints.”

Last week, Mark Isherwood MS also spoke in the Senedd on the issue.

Rhyl Journal: Mark Isherwood MSMark Isherwood MS

He said: “Early last month, I met with Arriva Bus Wales at their depot in New Broughton, Wrexham, when their head of commercial, North-West and Wales, emphasised what he described as the horrendous’ impact on their services of the Welsh Government's reduction of the default speed limit in Wales to 20 mph.

"He explained that the changes being introduced by Arriva Bus Wales result from the impact of this on their services.

“I again contacted them last week about the changes to the X51 bus service through Llandegla village after receiving correspondence from affected residents there.

"How therefore do you respond to their unambiguous reply, as follows? : “ 'As we discussed in Wrexham, Arriva do not want to change services, but have to because of 20 mph. We would not be changing 90 per cent of the network in North Wales otherwise. The issue we have now is that, because of 20 mph, the buses are taking longer to operate across North Wales, so we’ve had to register changes which have seen route curtailment, frequency reduction and additional resource to cope with the new running times required.'

“That’s what they stated. What is your response to that factual statement, unambiguous, and how are you going to engage directly with them to ensure understanding of where the real problems lie?”

Lee Waters MS - the Deputy Minister for Climate Change responsible for Transport policy in Wales Minister told Mr Isherwood that he is “very keen to engage with them”.