Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

26/05/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Delyth Jewell
Huw Irranca-Davies
Janet Finch-Saunders
Jenny Rathbone
Joyce Watson
Llyr Gruffydd Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Bev Fowles Cymdeithas Coetsus a Bysiau Cymru
Coach and Bus Association Cymru
David Beer Transport Focus
Transport Focus
Gemma Lelliott Cymdeithas Cludiant Cymunedol
Community Transport Association
Jane Reakes-Davies Cydffederasiwn Cludiant Teithwyr
Confederation of Passenger Transport
Joe Rossiter Transform Cymru
Transform Cymru
Josh Miles Cydffederasiwn Cludiant Teithwyr
Confederation of Passenger Transport
Yr Athro Graham Parkhurst Adran Daearyddiaeth a Rheolaeth Amgylcheddol, UWE Bryste
Department of Geography and Environmental Management, UWE Bristol
Yr Athro Mark Barry Ysgol Daearyddiaeth a Chynllunio, Prifysgol Caerdydd
School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
Silviya Barrett Ymgyrch dros Drafnidiaeth Well
Campaign for Better Transport

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Andrea Storer Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:46.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 10:46.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Bore da a chroeso i chi i gyd i Bwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Mae gennym ni nifer o Aelodau yn ymuno â ni dros gynhadledd fideo y bore yma, sef Janet Finch-Saunders, Delyth Jewell, Joyce Watson a Huw Irranca-Davies. Mae Jenny Rathbone a minnau yma yn yr ystafell yn Nhŷ Hywel. Ac, ar wahân i'r addasiadau sy'n ymwneud â chynnal y trafodion mewn fformat hybrid, mae holl ofynion eraill y Rheolau Sefydlog, wrth gwrs, yn aros yn eu lle. Mi fyddwch chi'n ymwybodol bod eitemau cyhoeddus y cyfarfod yma yn cael eu darlledu'n fyw ar Senedd.tv. Ac mi fydd Cofnod y Trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi, yn ôl yr arfer. Mae hwn yn gyfarfod dwyieithog, felly mae yna, wrth gwrs, gyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Os bydd larwm tân yn canu, yna mae angen i Aelodau a thystion adael yr ystafell drwy'r allanfeydd tân a dilyn cyfarwyddiadau gan y tywyswyr a'r staff. Dydyn ni ddim yn disgwyl ymarfer tân, felly byddwn i'n argymell eich bod chi'n gwrando ar y cyfarwyddid yna os ydy hynny yn digwydd. A gaf i atgoffa pawb hefyd i ddiffodd y sain ar unrhyw ddyfais symudol sydd gennych chi? Gaf i ofyn hefyd yn benodol os oes gan unrhyw un unrhyw fuddiannau i'w datgan? Na. Iawn. Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Reit, dyna ni. Mae'r materion cadw trefn yna wedi cael eu delio â nhw.

Good morning and welcome, everyone, to the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at the Senedd. We have a number of Members joining us via video-conference this morning: Janet Finch-Saunders, Delyth Jewell, Joyce Watson and Huw Irranca-Davies. Jenny Rathbone is here in the room with us, in Tŷ Hywel. And apart from procedural adaptations relating to conducting meetings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. You will be aware that the public parts of this meeting will be broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. This is a bilingual meeting, so there is interpretation available from Welsh to English. If a fire alarm sounds, then Members and witnesses need to leave the room via the fire exists and follow the instructions of ushers and staff. We're not expecting a fire alarm today, so I would recommend that you do follow those instructions if that does happen. Can I remind everyone also to turn off the sound on any electronic devices that you may have? And can I ask specifically if Members have any declarations of interest to make? No. Thank you very much. So, the housekeeping issues have been dealt with.

2. Teithio ar fysiau a’r rheilffordd yng Nghymru - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. Bus and rail transport in Wales - evidence session 1

Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at waith go iawn y pwyllgor y bore yma, sef wrth gwrs i graffu ar ddyfodol gwasanaethau bysiau a threnau yng Nghymru, ac rydyn ni'n mynd i gyfweld â thri phanel yn ystod y dydd, ond yn cychwyn, wrth gwrs, gyda'r panel cyntaf. Dwi'n croesawu dau academydd atom ni. Croeson cynnes i chi. Dwi'n meddwl efallai y byddai'n fwy addas ichi gyflwyno eich hunain ar gyfer y record, a'ch teitl, wrth gwrs. Felly, gwnawn ni gychwyn gyda Mark, efallai. 

We will move on to the substance of the meeting this morning, which is scrutiny of the future of bus and rail transport in Wales, and we will be interviewing three panels during the day, but we're starting, of course, with the first panel. I welcome two academics to our meeting. A very warm welcome to you. Perhaps it would be more appropriate for you to introduce yourselves for the record and to give your titles. So, we will start with Mark.  

Thank you, Chair. My name is Mark Barry. I'm a part-time professor of practice at Cardiff University's School of Geography and Planning. I'm also, to declare, a part-time adviser to Transport for Wales and Cardiff Council on all matters transport. I'll hand over, but I think for me it's the realisation, especially in the last three or four years, that the house is on fire as regards the climate emergency. I've learned a lot in the last few years, and I think some radical thinking is required as regards how we treat public transport, but also how that relates to things like demand management and especially land use planning.

Okay. Well, this is our opportunity to make sure that we give you that space to tell us exactly what needs to happen. Graham.

Good morning. I'm Graham Parkhurst, professor of sustainable mobility and director of the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England, just over the way in Bristol. My research group very much focuses on the interactions between society, technology, mobility and transport, and obviously we're very much focused on decarbonisation and how far technologies or behaviour change are going to be the key way to take us forward on that agenda. 

Excellent. And we're looking forward to you giving us that broader picture as well, in terms of what others, maybe, are doing in comparison to the situation here in Wales. Okay. I'll kick off with the first question, if I may. Just a general one, really, because we're aware that bus and rail passenger numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels. Is that simply due to concerns about public health, or is there a more fundamental change playing out in terms of transport demand patterns?

10:50

I'll quickly start. From the data I've seen, I think we're almost back to 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels, and I think it's clear that there are changing travel patterns. But in the context of public transport demand, we have to remember that 80 per cent of mobility choices resort to people getting in cars, and if we're dealing with a climate emergency, the focus has got to be—even with the reduced overall mobility quanta—how we shift more people from cars to public transport. 

I would add that we'd already been seeing growing working from home, and wasn't it interesting to hear that when the national UK Government tried to encourage civil servants back, it turned out there was actually only 40, 50 per cent desk capacity for them. So, this is something that's been going on for some time now, and I believe that COVID-19 has released suppressed demand for people to work from home, and it's not going to be easy to turn that back. If we look at the statistics, recovery is better on public transport and almost, in fact, at the weekends than it is at week times. So, we're also seeing, perhaps, a shift from people making fewer trips for what we might call the non-discretionary purposes—the things they have to do: work, school, education, healthcare—but a higher level of trip making, perhaps, for more optional journeys—leisure and tourism and well-being, I think, is possibly a winner from that.

That certainly chimes with the evidence we've had from Transport for Wales in relation to services on a Sunday, for example. Mark.

Can I just add? We've spent 30 or 40 years having to design and build infrastructure to move huge numbers of people for two hours a day in one direction, and then two hours a day in another direction. And if you step back far enough, you think, 'Well, that's really not a very sensible use of capital investment, how do we spread the load?' And what COVID has told us is that not everybody needs to be in the same place, in the same office, every day, every week. People do need to mix and interact, and I'm cautious about throwing out the importance of social interaction in a work environment, but flexibility is a real opportunity, not just to get a better work-life balance or better well-being, but actually to design infrastructure that hasn't got to do a crazy amount of heavy lifting between 8:30 and 9:30 every morning.

Good morning, both. You have talked about the changing nature of the use of public transport already. So, what is the purpose or what do you see is the purpose of public transport, going forward, with a mind to those changes? And how are the providers going to cope with what is perhaps, in some cases, a reduced demand in some areas and an increased demand in other areas?

So, perhaps I can start. I think what's going to happen is going to reinforce some of the differences between bus and rail. So, bus is very much a social service public transport for many people. It's the only way they can get around. And because more of the essential trips are made, I think we are seeing stronger recovery on bus, and that's likely to continue. It's rail that's the interesting one, with people perhaps on the higher salaries, in jobs where they have more control over their flexible working, that's the market that may take longer to come back, or not come back. It probably depends on factors like population growth and migration, the actual numbers when and if they return to the previous level.

I think there was a second part to the question, but I can't remember what that was now. 

I'll provide a different slant. For me, the opportunity and the absolute need is to—. If we're taking our decarbonisation obligation seriously, we need to think about how we reduce car use by 30 or 40 per cent in the next 10 to 15 years. And that, by implication, requires us to double, or more, our public transport capacity. So, we have to stop thinking in terms of bus versus rail; it's about how they work together, how we integrate them. In many cases, local bus services would be able to carry more people if they were better integrated to a rail backbone that provided sufficiently frequent services.

One of the great philosophical challenges in transport planning that people are grappling with, I think, is we've had 30 or 40 years of predict and provide, with people spending an awful lot of money modelling what demand might be—if you tweak the dials on your demand machine, or change the price, this is the number of people that will travel. The reality is we have to mode shift, we have to get people out of their cars, we have to decarbonise mobility choices. So, we define what the mode shift targets and mode share is between the modes, and we then have to enact the interventions to deliver that, and that includes the capacity we require, the integration of the modes so they work together, not just physically, but in terms of fares and tickets and information, but also, the inevitable reality of how you encourage people, using the best possible words, out of their cars. And that's going to require not just physical demand management, but fiscal measures, and I know we'll come on to that.16

We subsidise car use enormously. I remember talking to Jenny a few years ago about the M4. I've gone through an epiphany. When you look at the impact of the cost of road traffic accidents, the cost of induced demand-based sprawl, it's very clear that that cost is being borne by society. I think in the UK alone each year it's about £20 billion through road traffic accidents and air quality issues. Why, as a taxpayer, should we be paying that and allowing drivers to go around without any heed to the cost that that choice and that freedom has caused? 17

So, that's a long answer. We have to think about these things in a joined-up, holistic way, vis-à-vis those longer-term and strategic targets that are real and won't change. 

10:55

Okay. Thank you for that. Some of the evidence we've had has suggested certain carrots and sticks that could be used to that effect. Jenny, you wanted to come in. 

I just wanted to pick up on the point where you were talking about a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in car use, when the Welsh Government's Net Zero Wales talks about a 58 per cent reduction in car use. So, are you watering down your ambitions, or has the Welsh Government changed?

It depends on what year. It's 2040, I think, for that bigger target. I'm talking in the next 10 to 15 years. And one can get overstressed about whether it's 38 or 36 or 39. The reality is the margin of error is there, but a big change is required, a much bigger change than people are perhaps prepared to really get their heads around. And that will require very significant policy impacts and interventions at a scale, and may be slightly more uncomfortable in terms of policy choices than people are perhaps ready for. But we have to if we're taking the climate emergency seriously. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Good morning. Actually, Professor Barry, exactly on that point that you've just been making, do you think that the modal shift targets are ambitious enough? You've been talking about some of the uncomfortable choices or difficult choices that may have to be made in order to make sure that ambition is at a requisite scale to meet the reality in terms of what we need to do to address the climate emergency. What are some of those very difficult choices the Government has to make, and how do you think that they could communicate that properly to the public?

Going back to whether the targets go far enough, from what I've seen, Net Zero Wales is a very ambitious document, and sets out some quite stretched targets. I'm pretty sure, based upon the baseline numbers and assumptions that are in there, that it probably overstates the amount of active travel and public transport now, and, therefore, the gap between the reality now and where we need to get to is bigger than is probably set out in Net Zero Wales—not a huge amount, but significant. 

In terms of the tough choices, Welsh Government are between a rock and hard place, because if we're developing an integrated public transport solution, thinking about rail and bus—and people know my views, and I've been speaking for 10 years on the underfunding of Welsh rail infrastructure—to properly deliver an integrated public transport network, with the capacity that provides the choice and options to not use your car, we need to invest a significant amount in our rail infrastructure as well as our bus infrastructure.

The tough choices are that Welsh Government can't do all of that at the moment, and I'm sure we'll come on to that. The other thing that's very clear, given the fiscal challenges from a Government perspective and Welsh Government finance, is how else do you generate the revenue streams to service the kind of capital funding required, and how do you then incentivise people to use all of that capacity once you've built it? We'll come on to it. I think it's unavoidably necessary to think about some pricing mechanisms that can cover those costs, but also properly reflect the costs associated with the use of cars, which, for 50 years, has been spread amongst all of us in a way that's resulted in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years of bad decisions, not just on transport, but on planning. 

Yes. I think, in setting these targets, one has to consider also that the transport sector is becoming increasingly integrated with the rest of the economy. In many ways, we have an energy problem as much as a transport problem. So, if you're talking about mode shift, it will depend on the take-up of electric transport solutions, both public and private, and do we actually have the green energy to actually power those vehicles. So, I think, on the targets, it's right to have targets, they need to point us in the right direction, but they're going to have to be revised and adjusted as we go forward in any case depending on the prevailing conditions.

11:00

Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Delyth. Are you happy? Yes. Okay, we'll move on to Janet then.

Thank you. It is clear that our public transportation needs to decarbonise. However, as has been said, passenger levels in Wales are currently at an all-time low, with the Confederation of Passenger Transport stating that bus patronage is about 30 to 35 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. How might this impact the rate and scale of decarbonisation seen in this industry?

Graham, would you like to start on that one, then, because you touched on that earlier?

I'm not sure that the patronage levels on public transport particularly impact on the ability of those modes to decarbonise. It's going to be very expensive to deliver the decarbonisation of public transport, and the revenues from passengers will be a relatively small part of that. It's going to need big decisions by politicians to put money into that, or persuade the private sector to engage in that. An electric bus is costing three, four or five times a diesel bus; you simply can't cover that difference from revenues in any case. So, I'm not sure that's the main issue. My biggest concern is the rise of the electric car, possibly energy coming from somebody's home PV panel system, so, in effect, they're using a vehicle that they regard as completely clean, completely green, and public transport really must then decarbonise if it's going to be able to compete in that psychological battle—'If I have an electric car, I might feel I've done my part, I've done my decarbonisation, why on earth should I ever use a bus or train again if they're still supplied by diesel?'

Shall I come in? I'm not an expert on bus commercials, but the reality is, with COVID, many more bus operators have become non-commercial, and Welsh Government did step in to fund them. We have a very fragmented bus industry in Wales, and local authorities do fund many socially important services, but a lot of those have been cut, and had been cut even before COVID. The reality is that there is a significant implication on Government to fund the bus service necessary to provide coverage that is frequent enough and goes to enough places, and attractive enough to provide an alternative to what are easy choices on car use. So, Janet makes a very good point. It's a very thorny issue. But again, this is one of the tough choices—if you want to deliver an alternative to people's easy choice of getting in a car, like in other European countries, where the burden on the operational cost falls more heavily on the taxpayer, then I think we have to address that issue. To the extent Welsh Government can do that, it should, but it's probably significantly constrained by its financial envelope and what it can afford to spend on, which is why those other measures, I think, become more important. This is a tough one, and I'm saying these things aren't easy, otherwise we would have done them by now. But we want to see more people using bus; it actually does present a more socially important option for many people. But a lot of those services have been squeezed out, and we need to find a way of bringing them back so people have a choice.

In what ways could we see the Welsh Government work more closely with our private sector transportation companies to support the decarbonisation of the industry, whilst also ensuring that it provides an affordable and reliable service to consumers?

If there was an easy answer, I think it would have been given already. One of the examples I think that's important is London. London has had its problems, but because what services run where is controlled centrally, you can design a network that works with other bus services and rail services, and you can procure management contracts or concessions for those services, and you can end up delivering passengers a more useful offer. We don't have that in Wales, really. I know there have been some very positive conversations between some of the bus companies and TfW regarding integrated ticketing and fares, but without a legislative framework for that, there's no obligation on any of those bus companies to follow on. We know from history that arrangements with private bus companies can be turned off overnight, and things you think are going to happen don't happen, and things you weren't expecting to happen do happen.

There needs to be an element of control on what the network is, but I want to make sure we don't lose the innovation or flexibility that private companies can offer—so, that mix, where we go to a franchise, concession-based model where private operators can still run services, but services that make sense from a social perspective and actually are integrated with other operators, both rail and bus. We don't have that. So, the central control and thinking mind function that TfW or Welsh Government could take to help shape that, I think, is important. Does it have all the skills and capability today? Probably not. It has a lot more in place than it did three years ago. That's the skill and capability it needs to develop so that it has the kind of capability that Transport for London has had in place for the last 80 years. Again, it's not easy, but if we want to provide those choices, we have to think about that as a system and not as individual operations or individual routes—how do they work together? And that needs some sort of central control.

11:05

I think I would add that there are some opportunities for the public sector to step into the market. For operators, once they've acquired an electric vehicle, there will be significant advantages in terms of maintenance and energy costs. The real problem is the capital outlay. Maybe the public sector could buy the vehicles and lease them to private sector companies, perhaps on a franchise basis, or offer them within the franchising arrangements so that the vehicles are already identified. And of course, if there's bulk buying, that could bring the cost down. The cost will fall anyway—perhaps I was a little bit negative earlier. It's a question of how quickly you want the change to happen, and there will come a point when all the buses available to purchase new will be electric—it's how quickly you want that transition to occur.

That's a really good point on fleet procurement and fleet management. It is really unlikely that a myriad of smaller local bus companies can afford to procure the vehicles that are required to decarbonise, so there is a role. I know that conversations have been had, even on a hydrogen option—what organisation has the scale to be able to procure efficiently and put the infrastructure in place to manage either electrical or hydrogen bus fleets? Well, probably the Welsh Government. And I think the option then of providing those vehicles under the franchise or concession arrangement—who wants to bid to run the service and here are the buses and we've got the depot and all that in place—is a sensible, I guess, capability to think about developing. I struggle to see, without that—and this is the point that Graham made—how smaller bus companies that are working on tight margins could ever afford the capital funding to convert their fleets into something that is more sustainable.

Absolutely, yes. Okay. Thank you so much. Before we leave decarbonisation, I just wanted to press you a little bit. You mentioned that, obviously, people are going to feel, 'I've got an electric car, I'm okay now—I'm doing my bit'. Decarbonising buses and trains in itself isn't going to be enough, is it, to tackle that, I'd imagine. So, are there any other measures that could be pursued?

As Mark Barry has already said, we're facing a future where we're going to have to look at how we pay for transport. With falling electric car costs in the longer term, those are going to become more attractive, although we are seeing higher electric energy for domestic customers—obviously, currently, very much in the news—so it's pushing up a bit now the cost of electric car use. It is still relatively cheap and there are those sources of own energy, which are, in effect, for short journeys, going to be free for the user. Longer journeys, of course, involving recharges, wouldn't be. So, it's going to be basically that we will see rising car use, I believe, unless we tackle this and there will need to be some kind of road user charge.

My personal view is that it'd be better if that was done at a strategic level rather than relying on specific local authorities to introduce local congestion charges. We could have unfortunate effects on land use and demand for travel by different modes in different locations if it's too much focused on specific locations. The experience of the Severn tolls, for example, would give a clear indication there of the kind of behaviours people adopt to avoid a local toll. I would prefer to see it based on a distance travelled charge, maybe reflecting congestion and the emissions of the vehicle.

We also need to consider that these electric vehicles are not completely clean. It's been fairly well publicised now—the source of emissions from the tyres and the brake linings, microplastics from tyres found in the sea. So, overall, we need to go back to a situation where we're trying to reduce the need to travel, particularly by car—and I saw that was very strongly featured in the Welsh plan, so I thought that was very positive—providing alternatives and seeing the car as the tool of last resort, perhaps, for the journey, not the immediate response for every first need.

11:10

Just a quick addition to that. Someone, I'm sure, will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the fastest growth in the car sector is for diesel SUVs, even though EV take-up is growing, and that's disappointing. 

As a little anecdote, I was over in Canton on my bike a few weeks ago, and I went past an EV charging point, and what was plugged in I can best describe as a small military vehicle. The problem, of course, is that many cars are getting bigger and heavier, so any benefit you get of trying to electrify its traction is lost, because you have to move around 50 per cent more weight or whatever, which is, you know—. The key metrics are energy required to move a vehicle and space required per person to move you around a constrained urban environment. In all cases, cars and bigger cars are acting in exactly the opposite direction we need to be moving.

Thank you, Chair. Let's dive a little bit deeper into this, and I want to look at this issue of modal change here, and Professor Barry, some of your previous comments, and you've touched on it today, that there's no getting away from the need for demand management to help reduce car use and car dependency. Professor Parkhurst, you've commented previously, in respect of the legacy of COVID, that enhanced opportunities for policy to influence travel behaviour do exist, but the window of opportunity is limited. So, in respect of those two comments and your wider thoughts, what is the way in which we really achieve this modal shift of public transport, and would this vary by mode and market—so, for example, between rural and urban, or commuter travel versus leisure travel and so on?

I'll start if I may. If you focus on decarbonisation, the biggest impact you can have is in the most densely populated areas, getting people out of their cars for those ridiculously short trips of 1, 2 or 3 miles. So, for me, if there's going to be any stick, you wave it more vigorously in places like Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, maybe Wrexham. Where the choice or the alternative to a car is harder to deliver in rural areas, then I think any punitive measures need to be very minimal. I think you have to be fair and considerate about what people's choices really are. It also means where you invest needs to reflect where you can have the most impact, and this is not going to be popular in every part of Wales, but, if you want to decarbonise quickly, you have to decarbonise in places where you can get the most people out of their cars most quickly, and that's going to be the urban areas.

Getting back to the philosophical point, we need to start conveying this not as a charge but as a reduction in the discount that people have enjoyed subconsciously for 50 or 60 years. Cars are not free to society. Cars have a cost—the externalities—and we need to have a conversation and understand what those externalities are. I gave you an example: £16 billion every year in the UK as a result of 170,000 road traffic accidents, 25,000 serious injuries that take up intensive care unit time, and 1,700 deaths. Five people every day on average are killed in the UK in a road traffic accident; one cyclist every day. You add 20,000 to 30,000 premature deaths because of poor air quality, and it costs another £4 billion a year. You then look at induced demand-based sprawl and the development of stuff far, far away from where people can get to it unless they get in the car. These are real costs. They're not just fictitious things made up. And actually, people need to understand, if you get in a car, you have, actually, an obligation to take on board some of those costs, rather than dump it on everybody else in the way we have done for 50 years.

So, that's a philosophical and political conversation that needs to happen. People need to be exposed to that reality. Then it will make it easier, I think, to justify saying, 'We need to reduce the current discount you enjoy to drive around and enjoy those freedoms'—which are not free; they have a cost, they have an impact. And all of us—. And I came to this late. Once you really dig into this, it's very clear that cars, I believe, have caused an enormous amount of damage to society. And we'll come onto the decline of the high streets later and the out-of-town phenomenon. They've done so much damage, and we've carried on, and we can't carry on. We have to significantly change our relationship with the car in a very fundamental and visceral way, I think.

So, I agree that urban areas are the quicker wins and we should start there, but I don't believe we can ignore suburban and rural areas as well, particularly in Wales, which has got a very large rural population and very high rural car dependency. There was some analysis done in the 2000s for UK Department of Transport that showed quite clearly that the majority of carbon emissions from cars come from medium-range journeys, because they're fairly high frequency and fairly long. So, we really do need to tackle those journeys into the towns from rural areas and between the rural towns if we're going to tackle this problem.

So, I believe we need to encourage a strongly integrated rural transport system, which does include cars—we're simply not going to be able to do without them, but we have to establish the principle that people are encouraged to drive to the nearest available public transport node and transfer at that point. I wouldn't want to see huge car parks across our rural landscape, but they could be fairly low density, a few spaces at different stops, and we need to exploit the digital technologies to allow us to do this effectively—maybe having demand-responsive transport, which I've also seen featured strongly in the Welsh strategy.

But simply making it cheap, I think, wouldn't be enough. I think you could make it free and people would still choose to use their cars for convenience reasons, so there has to be some kind of incentive to do that, and so probably this national road pricing system that we're moving towards would have to cover rural areas as well, even if it might provide discounts for particular locations with poor public transport. But flexible transport to enable us to get to places, without having to run lots of empty buses all day because we've promised a timetable whether or not anybody is there to turn up to use them.

11:15

Can I just quickly add, on the demand management and road pricing? You're probably aware that the Westminster Transport Committee submitted its report on road pricing to the Westminster Government in February, and it was clear in the detail that it does two things: one is it's going to fill the enormous hole in the Treasury's revenue by reducing tax take from fuel duty for the next 15 years, so the Treasury are already looking at this, even if no-one is talking about it. And secondly, they recognise that it probably is going to be a very useful tool to help encourage people not to use cars as much as they currently do.

The risk for Welsh Government, of course, is, unless we do something in Wales in terms of grabbing that revenue stream, it will be grabbed and controlled by the Treasury and we'll be in the same situation as we are now in terms of trying to get the funding we need to invest in the infrastructure and the services, as we have done for the last 30 years. So, if we're taking this seriously, I think Welsh Government needs to act and be ahead of the curve, or it will be done to us in a way that restricts our ability, I think, to invest in the kind of infrastructure and services that we need to think about to hit our targets.

Clear messages coming through. Huw, did you want to pick up on anything, or—?

Yes. Diolch. I find this fascinating, in terms of the behavioural shifts that need to be made. We've got suggestions, some evidence, from some public engagement work that's been going on about perceptions of different modes of public transport as well and how they may differ, and how there may be more negative views of some forms of public transport as opposed to others. Professor Parkhurst, you were talking earlier about the psychological battle that people go through in relation to electric cars. Any kind of different kind of psychological battle that people may be going through in terms of just their perceptions of public transport—is there anything more that you think that the Government or any other actors could be doing to try to shift those cognitive biases that we may have?

So, I think it is important to consider the psychological aspect, yes. People want to be seen in or on a vehicle that they believe reflects their status, their values. Do we always play into that? Probably not. Do we shout enough about the green potential of public transport? Once it is decarbonised, once it is electrified, maybe we can do that more. But, at the end of the day, the product has to meet user expectation. There's no good promoting something, people overcome their negative perceptions, ride on it, and discover, actually, what they thought before was the case; you have a counterproductive effect. So, the two need to be considered together: improving the product, making sure it meets people's needs—we do have that integrated system that's reliable, easy to use—and then you can promote its strong values. Yes, I think maybe we could do more in terms of social marketing and more in terms of image presentation, that the right people are seen on the right vehicles—you know, are leading politicians seen on the public transport system? You can't underestimate the importance of people like Boris Johnson for promoting cycling in London, and he was that one of many politicians out and about there on the bicycle, giving a lead. So, in that one respect, I would say he has helped transport policy.

11:20

I think a lot of people would like to see Boris Johnson get on his bike, but that's another matter. Okay, Mark, did you want to add anything?

Just a quick thing. I think people are generally—. Even my mother was quoted, I think, as saying something like, 'This metro is never going to happen,' or whatever. People have not seen any kind of significant investment in our public transport services network at scale probably ever; we've seen little bits here and there. I just think that has led, over many years, to people's disinclination to even consider using public transport in a major way. I do think and hope and expect—and I'm not a behavioural expert—that when we see the south Wales metro tram trains and tri-mode beginning to operate on the Valleys lines down to Cardiff and to Cardiff Bay, people, I think, may well be genuinely gobsmacked as to what is now being delivered. Now, I know there are some challenges and issues, but we will get there. It will be delivered and it will have an impact. By showing and by delivering and by delivering some shiny stuff to people, that will help change behaviours as well as the sticks we've talked about. But there is a legacy of not a great deal happening in this space, which I think has probably led to decades of generational, I guess, cynicism about what public transport can do for us, and that will take a bit of turning around, I think.

[Inaudible.]—coming down the track very quickly, and it's here, actually—the cost-of-living crisis, and now the fact that the price of diesel is shooting up so you can't even be guaranteed the same price for diesel in the same day. And that's hitting everybody—that's the providers of transport and the users of fuel. So, how can policy makers, in your opinion, and operators, respond to something that is completely out of their control, so it seems, at the moment, according to some messages coming from some parts of Government? And how then do you think that we can have this change that we're talking about, going from your private car to public transport, and are there opportunities here of some good coming from what is a really testing situation for most people?

Well, there have been some specific policies applied to this kind of problem in the past—car scrappage schemes, and there have even been more sophisticated versions where you could get a free public transport pass for months, or a year, if you decided to scrap your car. So, there may well be people who are on the margins of car ownership, and this is going to tip them over the balance and they might look for other opportunities. For the operators themselves, I think it's going to be extremely difficult. They already buy the fuel as cheaply as they can in bulk purchasing. Ultimately, I think there is going to have to be Government assistance to meet the difference, or fares will go up. That's a simple fact.

I've got a copy of the summary headline statements from the sixth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change here, and I'll read this sentence:

'The 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute a disproportionately large share of global household GHG emissions'.

Now, that says those with the most contribute disproportionately the most in terms of the damage to the environment. That requires a fiscal response, in my view, and, if we want equity and inclusivity in the public transport offer, then there needs to be some redress in terms of how we fund that in relation to where most of the emissions come from. I think you hear what I'm saying there. Does Welsh Government have the tools to do that? Probably not all of them. This is why this is a bigger issue. People need to take seriously that the emissions we're seeing do weigh heavily upon those with the most, but the costs and the impacts of it have been borne by those with the least, and that is a fundamental political challenge that requires some very innovative fiscal thinking, in my view, and we're not quite in that place yet.

11:25

Since Transport for Wales took over the rail franchise, the organisation has been fined in excess of £3 million due to poor performance, and between 2018 and 2019, the numbers of trains that were cancelled were the highest since 2010. Given this track record, why would we now support the Welsh Government's proposals for a national bus franchise?

Do you know what? I'm no fan of poor performance. I know James Price and the team. They've got a lot on their plate and where performance falls short, people need to be held to account. So, I would cut them a little bit of slack. They've inherited probably the oldest rail fleet in the UK, they're in the middle of the most complicated and challenging infrastructure project Wales has taken on, and they're trying to transition all of that in the middle of an epidemic, and now with this cost-of-living crisis.

Do I think we should be relaxed about poor performance? No. Is this a unique feature of Welsh transport versus what happens elsewhere in the UK? No; these things happen for many operators. I do think that James and the team recognise this and are trying to deal with it. Let's not hold off, because I think it's ultimately really important that passengers get a good service, and where trains are cancelled or things don't turn up or whatever happens, it turns people off and we have to fix it. But, given where we started on the rail franchise, and what was inherited—30 or 40 years of depreciation versus the average of the UK—then there are certain, for me, I guess, mitigation factors that support us giving them a little bit more slack, but without taking our foot off—not taking our foot off the neck of the executive, but keeping the focus on performance. Because I think ultimately, we've got to get that right, and it probably isn't as good as it can be, but the background does justify some of that to a certain extent.

Perhaps I can respond on the issue of franchising and bus franchising. My personal view is neither strongly for or against franchising. I think you can point to examples where franchises have resulted in very good services. You can also identify particular cities where deregulated arrangements have worked pretty well and it's been possible to make improvements—for example, Bristol's Metrobus—in an environment that isn't franchised or there is particular regulatory control over that infrastructure.

I think the key point is if you want to undertake franchising to have that stronger public sector control, one has to accept that the risks will come with it, and the higher costs will likely come with it. The private sector is good at pushing costs down. The public sector no doubt can bring its ability to control events and other transport systems to maximise certain benefits, but there will essentially be pros and cons, probably, in any system. The key thing is that whatever the regulatory framework, things work best when the public and private sector have good relationships and strong operators wanting to deliver a high-quality product and the public sector strongly supporting them. I think that's the key point.

I'd just add to that. Personally, I lean away from having lots of publicly owned bus companies. I lean towards public control of what the buses should do and where they should go. I recall some work done looking at Network Rail's issues over the last 30 years. The issue wasn't whether it was a franchise or a concession or publicly owned, it was actually the specification, procurement and contract management of said services. That's the fundamental thing. So, I have no ideological particular view as to what the ownership should be; I do think what we need to focus on is what service we want, where they need to run, the price of them, so that people can afford them, and procure and assemble the services in the most effective way, both public and private, as we see fit.

We know from the Welsh Government buying the airport—. Let's be honest, it was bought for £52 million and £100 million was spent on it to have it valued at £15 million. Then there are problems with the air link from Anglesey to Cardiff. There are problems with our rail system and, of course, our bus system. So, do you know what the predicted associated costs are for the Welsh Government? Because, for me, as a politician and representative of consumers wanting to use these modes of transport, it doesn't give me much confidence when Welsh Government takes on something. I'm really fearful for the bus industry now. Do you know what the costs are, and would that not, actually—that funding—go better to working with the private sector in order to provide a more affordable, reliable and environmentally friendly bus service?

11:30

It's a really good question, Janet, and I think the need to capture the innovation that is more freely discharged and expressed in a private company, versus in a bureaucracy, is really important. But where bus companies are operating to a purely commercial remit, you do get problems. I'll give an example—again, if I've got this wrong, people can challenge me. Cardiff Bus used to have virtually a monopoly in Cardiff, and actually used to cross-subsidise services late at night in areas where there wasn't much demand to provide a social service to cover most of the city. Other operators have come in and they've focused on the high-value, high-demand routes, and that, effectively, has shrunk the ability of Cardiff Bus to offer those socially important services. The new company arriving—we all know who they are—had a very innovative marketing campaign, very clever, and you want to capture that, that fleet of foot innovation, but not at the cost of offering an integrated service for most of the people for most of the time. This is not an easy thing to address, and we have to find a balance between the private sector innovation and flexibility and its ability to be fleet of foot, versus ensuring that we present people sufficiently attractive services that will get people out of their car.

Do I have an easy answer to that? No. But I do think, ultimately, it's about where Government and Transport for Wales and bodies are actually focusing on what are the services we want to see, and measure those, versus what they can do on decarbonisation. And then you procure the most suitable operators. If they're private, fine, if they're public, fine, but you don't have a dogmatic view that it's got to be one or the other; you find the best to suit your purpose. And I personally think that a lot of the bus companies we're dealing with are perfectly happy to operate in a concession or franchise environment in other parts of Europe, and they're perfectly happy to work in a more regulated environment in the UK as well. They may not say it, but, actually, their corporate headquarters are used to this model from working all over Europe. So, I think there's a balance to be had, and I think we can get that if we aim for it.

I would agree that one of the experiences of COVID-19 for bus companies is it's probably made them more willing to be part of franchising arrangements, given that the market has been impacted so badly, and we don't know how long it's going to take to recover. I can't provide specific figures for Wales, but it's worthwhile noting that, if you go back a few years, at the height of public support for transport in London, it was receiving about half the bus subsidy for the entire United Kingdom. It's come down a lot since then, but, probably, the subsidy per passenger is more equivalent in London and outside. The big difference is that, outside of London, a lot of the subsidy is for concessionary fares, which is for a very specific targeted group of users. The actual subsidy for running the services is a fairly small part of the subsidy. Therefore, if the state wants to take responsibility and add additional services, likely they're going to be less commercially viable than the existing services, so you can see that the subsidy cost will go up—it's almost inevitable. 

Can I add one other anecdotal story that might help? Wales introduced free bus travel for over-60s several years ago. It sounds great, but what that has done in some circumstances is that bus companies know that there's a revenue to be had from moving around people with a flask and a sandwich box in the middle of the afternoon—and I'll be in that category next year, sadly—and then you may, subconsciously, start designing a network to move around pensioners in the middle of the afternoon, because you know you can count them and claim the revenue because of the concessionary fares, and you become less focused on actually the more economically or other socially important services you could offer—commuting or whatever. So, everything has unintended consequences, and even the good we try to do will have unintended consequences, and it's difficult to identify that. I think we're living with that now.

Given finances are tight, is it more important to provide free bus travel for everyone over 60, as important as that is, or is it more important to provide free bus travel for everyone under 25 trying to get to work? These are real questions and choices we need to grapple with. I favour, actually, providing a bit more support for younger people in a very uncertain work environment where travel costs make up a disproportionately high proportion of what people actually earn, and we need to get our economy moving as well. So, maybe we say that older people should just pay £1. That will change behaviours and make the networks a bit more responsive to what we really need to be doing, rather than moving people around every afternoon for a trip on the bus, which is actually, in some cases, what's happening.

11:35

Well, there's a whole other hour there, I think, of scrutiny, but certainly that's something that we can chew on. Huw has indicated that he'd like to come in, and, I think, Delyth as well. We'll go to Huw first.

Yes, just a quick follow-up, Chair. You've talked about the massive investment that's needed in fleet in terms of decarbonisation, and we've touched on the approach of a franchise model. All of these things suggest to me that that would mean a quite radical restructuring of the private commercial sector out there and that we would see fewer small operators and more regional, larger operators. Am I wrong in that? Is that naïve, simplistic thinking? What do European examples tell us about this franchise model? Has that led to fewer and larger operators working hand-in-glove with the franchise organiser?

I think it does vary from country to country, but you do tend to see regional local monopoly operators in many countries on a franchising basis. There are cases in the past where smaller operators have collaborated with larger operators. Maybe they can team up to bid for franchises together, maybe there are particular advantages if a small company knows a particular rural area well and its customer base—it might then collaborate with one of the larger ones. It doesn't seem to be inevitable that there's no future for smaller bus companies, but I agree, one of the problems is that it's very hard for small companies to invest in change and have the technical capacities to undertake this transition that we need.

One of the comments that was just made a moment ago by your colleague was about innovation. Sometimes, we do see innovation coming through where very small local operators will run routes that are simply off the track for either a larger operator or even for subsidised services currently with the local authority, and they will step in. Do we lose that innovation then when we move to a franchise model and we move to systems that favour larger operators or amalgamations of larger operators?

A couple of things. You could do if you only ever procure big, huge, humongous services. If you actually target smaller services and deliberately design a procurement around what a small operator could do, and you could provide, via your fleet capacity, the vehicles, then maybe you could still allow smaller operators to play a part. 

The other challenge, of course—the word 'transition' has come up—is that transition is what we need in everything that we do in our lives in the decarbonisation world and mobility. And whilst we have this transition where we need to go from an all-diesel fleet, pretty much, to an all-electric fleet over the next 10 to 15 years, there may be more difficulty in providing this space, but once we're through that transition, there's no reason, when there are more lower cost vehicles that are decarbonised available and more accessible to smaller operators, why we can't support that then. But I think what you do in the medium term is that, in your procurement of services, you actually carve out a certain amount of the totality to protect and enable that innovation where it exists. But it will be difficult, because there is going to be this capital cost for fleet transition, which is best borne at a larger scale, probably by Government.

Okay. Can I just ask a quick one, then, in terms of moving to the bus franchising? Do we really have the capital resource and the expertise and the personnel and the skills on the ground to deliver what we're aiming to deliver?

We didn't have any skills on the ground to start the Wales and borders franchise procurement 10 years ago, but look, we're doing it. I think someone said a great quote: if someone offers you a chance to do something, you do it and you have to learn on the way. I think we're in the situation, with the climate emergency, when we have to just get on and start doing things even if we don't get it all right all of the time, because we have to change and we have to start doing these things differently.

Earlier, Professor Parkhurst, you said that electric buses cost three times more than diesel buses, so, therefore, it wasn't possible to afford them if you were a small company. Could you just say a little bit more about why that's the case?

The vehicles themselves are currently much more expensive. The battery packs are extremely expensive. It's because it's a new technology. You often need to re-equip your depot. It's not just the cost—do you have the space in your depot to run both electric and diesel buses? It creates handling problems. If you imagine your bus depot at night is completely full of buses that you need to refuel, clean, and now you need to charge some of them as well—you've possibly only got one or two chargers because they're so expensive. When we were doing some work with First Bus in Bristol on a prototype bus, they had to replace a charging cable that then cost them £11,000. I'm sure it's a fraction of that now—costs are coming down. But these small bus operators that we're talking about, they probably don't buy new buses anyway. They all buy second or third-hand buses, so they wouldn't expect to be able to buy an electric bus for many years to come. That's why I think it's so important that we provide some way that those companies can transition whilst not having to face those capital costs. And by the way, we're seeing exactly the same problem in the freight sector, where there are small HGV operators who would tend to buy second-hand vehicles and they couldn't expect to get an electric lorry. Well, they don't even exist yet. It'll be 20 years, probably, before they could buy those at the current asset-value cost that they can afford. So, leasing could be one way forward.

11:40

Okay, but, for example, Cardiff Bus and Newport Bus have both acquired electric buses through a grant from the Department for Transport. Why would it not be possible in theory for a smaller company to also apply for those sorts of resources?

Yes, they could if they've got the depot capacity to deal with it, and they've got a sufficient electric supply for their depot. There would be various barriers. Often, they're happy to stay with the technology they know. They don't want to have to retrain their managers responsible for maintenance, that kind of thing. So, it's not just cost, there are various other barriers as well.

Yes, that's going to incentivise them to switch.

Fine, okay. I just want to move on to rail, then, which is: what are the opportunities and threats of the UK Government's proposed rail reform, including the creation of this 'Great British Railways'? So, moving from ending franchising to a fee-based concession approach, what are the implications for Wales?

There are a couple of things for me. I think, principally, having vertically integrated operations where the services are linked to the track and the management of, and there aren't these artificial legal barriers between organisations, is good, it's helpful. For me, though, it's all been done based on how the world looks from Whitehall and the Department for Transport on Marsham Street. The issue for Wales is not whether it's vertically integrated or not, it's whether we've got enough money to invest in our network, to expand the network capability, so we can operate more services. I'm not going to go over and over it again—I've spoken at length at Westminster on this issue.

Wales has been poorly served by the rail industry ecosystem for 30 or 40 years in terms of investment and enhancement funding. Until that's resolved, we are not going to be able to deliver our decarbonisation objectives, because the rail investment required provides the backbone services that, actually, a lot of our bus services will integrate with. An example is the north Wales main line: we've still got some Victorian signalling up there. The south Wales main line's not a main line, as you would describe it in the rest of the UK. So, it's almost like, I don't care how you organise yourselves in terms of vertical or horizontal or tangental, we just need some funding. And the current system is and has and will continue to fail Wales unless there's proper devolution of funding and power.

I also would add, if you're wanting transport for the north, you're probably feeling the same way, because they've just had their responsibility for Northern Powerhouse Rail taken off them, back to the DfT on Marsham Street. The UK is very, very centralised in terms of that big capital-spending decision making, and I think there's a fundamental constitutional issue underpinning all of these problems, in that capital spending per head in the UK is far higher, and has been for decades, in London and the south-east of England. That has a long-term impact on the efficiency of the economy elsewhere. If you don't invest in your capital infrastructure, your welfare costs go up, and I think that is fundamental. And if Wales wants to decarbonise, it needs those powers and that access to the kind of funding that we can only dream of that we've seen in London in the last 50 years. London's a lot bigger—I support Crossrail—but we've got issues like Cardiff West getting a new station that's taking forever. We've got some real serious challenges. The core Valleys line and the metro is a chink, a way of moving forward, but if we can't change that, you can organise all you want at Westminster, it won't help us in the slightest.

11:45

So, how do we resolve these procurement and contract management issues that you have spoken about?

Going back to Transport for Wales, they are, with the core Valleys lines, now in a position to specify what they want, what services they want. I'd prefer that they were decoupled from the mainline network and dedesignated so we're not constrained by Office of Rail and Road decisions to the extent we are now. So, there are opportunities, and we have a capability, nascent in some cases, to do a lot more within Wales.

There are clearly major cross-border issues on managing rail infrastructure, but any mature adjacent countries manage those in very professional ways with an equitable involvement from both parties. What tends to happen, and it's no disrespect for very capable officials at Westminster or the DfT, Wales is halfway up page 2. We hardly ring the bell in terms of what we are going to do, because they're so busy dealing with the bigger, shinier projects elsewhere in the UK, and until that's resolved, we're always on the back foot in terms of the funding required.

Yet, TfW could, I think, in the next years, develop into the kind of organisation that could take on much more of this responsibility. There's a lot to do and it's got to focus on getting the core Valleys lines sorted out, and I don't want to distract it too much, and I have a tendency to do that. But there is an opportunity for Wales to do things differently, and for it to spread its responsibility over more of the network in a way we can then integrate it much more overtly with our bus services, which we have struggled to do.

I fear this might have to be the last question, Jenny, because we're running out of time.

Okay, all right. Just quickly talking about the metros, you've talked earlier, Professor Barry, about grabbing the road-pricing opportunities before the Treasury does. Is this something that the metro could seize on?

Well, there are two things here. I helped set up the metro programmes around Wales. It's about bringing forward the right kind of strategic schemes, rail, bus and active travel, in a coherent way, which is what TfW are doing. They're the body now that's got the kind of thinking of what these metros should look like.

The bigger challenge on the demand management I think goes beyond TfW's remit. This is still a Welsh Government policy area, I think, about what we are going to do on this, how we are going to encourage people out of their cars, how we are going to deal with the fact we don't, perhaps, have all the powers. And at Westminster, perhaps officials may recognise this is coming, but politically it's not something people are talking about.

So, I'm not sure how we resolve this, and maybe then we have to think about proxies, things like workplace charging, higher business rates for out-of-town developments, and we haven't talked about land use and sprawl and the impact of the huge out-of-town car-based estates we have in retail, in office and in public health services. Maybe we start levying higher business rates levies for those kinds of places and generate the revenue stream we can use. We have to be fleet of foot. If we don't have the tools we want, what tools can we create from the current portfolio of powers that—

And we've got the chicken-and-egg problem, which is that we can't force people to get out of their cars until we've got those alternative options on public transport. People have got to get to X.

Well, we can, but in places like Cardiff, Newport and Swansea, I am convinced that 20 or 30 per cent of all car journeys could easily be transferred, and I'm not saying I'm a great beacon of light here, but I got rid of my car five years ago, and I used to drive everywhere. I was just like everybody else, 'I'm going to hop into the car, and I'm going to the shop', but now I don't. So, it is possible, I think there's a huge amount of opportunity, even with the active travel opportunity, to get people out of their cars.

If I could add just one point, with this greater homeworking, which is, indeed, a policy objective in Wales, and I think that's the right thing to do, we have to bear in mind that that has been associated with people living further from work, so if you're travelling fewer times a week, you're much more prepared to cope with a longer commute. COVID pushed people a bit from the cities. Maybe it's a temporary effect, this sort of hard-to-define concern that rural areas were somewhere cleaner and healthier, and of course they are in some respects, but not that our urban areas are so awful, to be honest—they're much cleaner than they used to be. So, unless there are some fiscal or regulatory measures to manage this push to suburbanise and move to rural areas, I think we will see a possible reversal of the positive urbanisation trends of the past decade or so.

Okay. Could you just say why you think mobility as a service is a potential game changer?

Because for the first time we can start to address, using technology, some of these problems with different transport operators collaborating by offering integrated services. The fundamental problem is if you sell somebody an integrated bus and rail ticket, how do you know exactly which services they use, how do you know how much revenue should go to each of those operators? You can get round that by just doing what they do in London, where Transport for London underwrites the cost. There's a cap and they worry about the cost. But outside of London it's a real barrier, because if individual operators don't recover the right revenue, then they go out of business. Mobility is a service and the technologies potentially behind it—things like blockchain, which enable auditing of particular services—they're not without their problems. They use a lot of computer capacity, and some of that can be carbon generating. But they do at least offer a way in which operators can take part in a platform of mobility services with some confidence that they will actually recover their cost of participating and make a reasonable profit on it.

11:50

Okay, thank you. I'm afraid the clock has beaten us, but can I thank you both for allowing us to mine a very, very rich vein of evidence? I'm sure there will be other things that we may want to pick on further in written form, if you'd be willing to maybe help us in that respect. You will be sent a transcript of the evidence and the session, or the meeting, just to check for accuracy. But with that, can I thank you both for your attendance? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

And can I, therefore, advise the committee that we'll now break and look to reconvene informally at 12.20 p.m. in readiness for our next evidence session in public at 12.25 p.m.? Diolch yn fawr. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:51 ac 12:26.

The meeting adjourned between 11:51 and 12:26.

12:25
3. Teithio ar fysiau a’r rheilffordd yng Nghymru - sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
3. Bus and rail transport in Wales - evidence session 2

Croeso nôl i'r pwyllgor. Dŷn ni'n symud at y trydydd eitem ar ein hagenda ni, sef clywed tystiolaeth ar deithio ar fysiau a rheilffyrdd yng Nghymru. Hon fydd yr ail sesiwn dystiolaeth i ni heddiw, yr ail banel o dystion yn cynrychioli grwpiau buddiannau teithwyr a chyrff anllywodraethol. Gwnaf i ofyn i'r tystion gyflwyno eu hunain. Gwnawn ni gychwyn gyda Joe.

Welcome back to the committee. We move on to the third item on the agenda, namely to hear evidence on bus and rail transport in Wales. This will be the second evidence session for us today, the second panel of witnesses representing passenger interest groups and non-governmental organisations. I'll ask the witnesses to introduce themselves. We'll start with Joe.

Hello. I'm Joe Rossiter. I'm the policy and external affairs manager for Sustrans Cymru, but I'm here to represent Transform Cymru, which is a coalition of lots of transport organisations, all about creating a sustainable, accessible and affordable transport system for the people of Wales.

Hello. I'm David Beer. I'm senior manager for Wales at Transport Focus, the national watchdog. Our role is to protect and promote the interests of users.

Hello. I'm Silviya Barrett. I'm director of policy and research at the Campaign for Better Transport. We are a national charity operating in England and Wales and promote all sustainable modes, from public transport, walking and cycling to shared mobility. 

Grêt. Diolch yn fawr iawn i'r tri ohonoch chi. Awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, felly, a gwnaf i wahodd Janet Finch-Saunders i ofyn y cwestiwn cyntaf.

Thank you very much to the three of you. We'll move on straight into questions, and I'll ask Janet Finch-Saunders to ask the first question.

Thank you. With passenger numbers down 30 per cent to 35 per cent from peak pre-pandemic levels, is this shift due to just the pandemic, or is it due to concerns relating to the use of public transport, or is it down to changing consumer behaviours? Has any work been done, any data collected? Do we know whether it is—? Because we know there were problems before the pandemic, which were, obviously, compounded by the pandemic, but we also know now there's been a systematic shift in people's behaviour. Also, there are concerns about the reliability of public transport in Wales. So, which one of those three is—? In order of priorities, what are they?

You've certainly outlined the key causes. I think that people's understanding of transport has changed. We did some research, for example, with concessionary pass holders, and there is definitely a sense in which they are using transport less frequently. That may be because they don't have the journeys to make, potentially. For example, medical appointments have lessened. The other thing as well is that people are working from home more, so, again, the commuting hasn't bounced back. In terms of the national picture, the figures show that rail, for example, is around about 75 per cent of what it was pre COVID, buses slightly more at around 80 per cent to 90 per cent overall, but individually, we're finding that leisure travel has bounced back probably to much greater than pre-COVID levels, and that is a good news story, but commuting and business travel hasn't. I think the main reasons for that are because people have changed the way in which they use transport. The message went out very clearly, particularly from Westminster, at the beginning of the pandemic, that transport wasn't safe, and that really resonated with people. There's a hump in the road to get over to persuade people that it is safe and it is there for people to use. I think that has left a resonance with people. But also, transport use is changing, and I think that transport provision has to change to move with the times with more leisure travel and less business and commuting.

12:30

Sorry, Janet, before you move on, I'll invite any other member of the panel who wants to come in. But can I just ask—? You mentioned the hump in the road, David—is there enough being done at the moment, do you think, to help to get over that hump?

I don't think there is, to be honest. Transport for Wales, for example, has just put out a new campaign to return to transport, 'The real social network', and I think there's a real resonance. It's fresh, it's a good idea, and I think that is starting to get the message out there. But I think there's a lot more that can be done and should be done.   

Okay. Thank you. Silviya wanted to come in as well, and then we'll come back to you then, Janet. 

Thank you. Just to add to what David already said, we were worried at the beginning of the pandemic about the strength of the messaging for people to avoid public transport. And, obviously, that has really stuck and led to persistent nervousness among people in terms of virus transmission. What we're saying to central Government and local government is to be much more explicit to people that public transport is safe and it's desirable to use for environmental reasons as well. So, we were pleased to see Transport for Wales launch the 'real social network' campaign, and we have been calling for similar work from central Government. We at the Campaign for Better Transport realised very early on that a campaign like that would be necessary, so in May 2021 we launched 'The way forward is public transport', which basically conveyed the message that public transport should be made to feel safer and more attractive for people coming back post pandemic. But a big part of that is just investing back in the basics—so, affordability and connectivity. Cost is a big barrier. According to data, between 1997 and 2020, the cost of owning and using a motor vehicle has increased by just 58 percent, whereas rail fares increased by 138 per cent and bus fares almost doubled, up by 192 per cent. So, that price difference shows a really big issue for people.

It is indeed, and I'm sure we'll be coming back to that later on. Thank you. Back to you, Janet.

[Inaudible.]—behind me; I don't know what it is. Sorry. With the climate emergency declared by the Senedd, addressing climate change is now at the top of all of our political agendas. It's vital that public transportation is safe, clean, reliable and that it decarbonises Wales. However, Welsh Government, I believe, has made none or maybe a little progress in rolling this out across the public transport network in Wales. I don't believe that they're short of money or market options for vehicles to be integrated, because there's some good work going on. Why is Transport for Wales taking so long to address this issue, and when can we start to see the majority of trains and buses running on electric and hybrid engines?

It's probably not one for me, if others have got—.

It's a question for Transport for Wales, really, isn't it, in a sense. But what's you're perception of where we are and where we should be?

From a passenger perspective, if I can put that down first, I think the propulsion method is not one that is hitting passengers where they're thinking at the moment. I think that the point that's just been made about going back to basics is something that's more uppermost in passengers' minds. And, certainly, the message to get out, in terms of encouraging modal shift, hasn't really resonated. We did some work on sustainability, and we found that that isn't a message that people are thinking first when they're thinking about how to make their journey. They're looking at things like cost and convenience far more than that. Yes, it's a good point about the propulsion method and changing to electric vehicles and new trains. We know that they've been trailed for a couple of years now—the new trains for the Transport for Wales fleet. They will be coming. They're starting to be tested now. From the end of the year, we will start to see those. But, yes, they've been a long time in terms of getting those in place.

On the bus side of things, yes, the people with greater resources, deeper pockets, are starting to bring in electric vehicles, and they're looking at hydrogen, but I think, certainly when listening to colleagues from the bus industry, they are looking at what should their investment be in. So, is the long-term investment—? Because it costs an awful lot of money for an electric bus. You're talking £0.25 million for those sorts of things. And if you're looking at hydrogen, you've then got to look at the method of topping those up, fuelling them, and the depots need to have that capability as well. So, there's an awful lot of investment potential, and when you've got proposals for a big change like franchising on the table, is that something that the bus industry is incentivised to look at now, or is that something that they'd prefer to leave to somebody like Welsh Government to think about?

12:35

Just briefly, we've done a lot of work on the transition to zero-emission buses, for example, but more focused on central Government, and I know that progress on that has been slow. I cannot comment on specific progress in Wales, but generally, as David said, the big barrier is the costs of zero-emission buses, and given that the pandemic has really affected passenger numbers, and therefore revenue for operators, this transition requires a lot of subsidy from Government. The Department for Transport has had two rounds of funds for the ZEBRAs—zero emission bus regional areas funding, I believe it's called. But again, that's been allocated on a competitive basis, so some authorities will benefit, others will not. So, it's about having that certainty of subsidy to invest in zero-emission vehicles and in the infrastructure that goes with them. It's a similar issue on the trains. Electrification has been a very slow process to progress, and that's just across the board, not only in Wales. So, again, it comes down to the amount of subsidy required to achieve that, and where electrification is not possible, we could be looking at hydrogen trains or battery electric, but again, it's a long process that needs investment.

Good afternoon, everybody. It has already been alluded to by David that the purpose of public transport is changing—in other words, the way people access it. Have you done any assessment of the level of uncertainty that that is causing around demand for both bus and rail travel?

Yes, we have. During the pandemic particularly, we've changed the way in which we have engaged with people that are travelling, and our weekly research has shown that, yes, there is that level of uncertainty, but there's also that shift. People who are travelling by rail, for example, really do feel safe, and those who are travelling by bus slightly less so, but the experience is there that people are feeling safe.

I think where the uncertainty lies is a perception gap. Those people who have yet to return to transport, or have yet to try it out again, are still uncertain about how it will provide for their safety needs as well as the reliability and all of the other basics, and the journey needs that they have. I think that people have got used to travelling in other ways. It has been a lot easier to jump in the car. That's their own little private space. It's quick, it's easy for them to use, but with the cost of fuel as it is, it's prompting people to look back to public transport. So, public transport has to be there with an attractive network, and the key barriers that people perceive are cost, convenience and complexity. And those three things have to be addressed to give an attractive network that's going to attract people to make that modal shift and to give them the certainty that public transport will work for them. 

12:40

I think also we need to make sure that we're taking the time to acknowledge that these are potentially long-term shifts in transport mode usage. We've also seen things that are potentially more promising in terms of a lower degree of car ownership and lower car miles travelled due to more people working at home, more people not going in the car for leisure purposes as well, because the rise of e-commerce means that people aren't necessarily needing to go to the shops and go in their vehicle for that. But we've also seen quite positive steps in terms of lots of people walking, and the levels of people walking for meaningful journeys has also risen quite considerably. I would point you to some new research that was recently done by CREDS, the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, which, whilst it's a UK-wide study, looks at the long train of behavioural change within that context. So, I would look at that. But also acknowledging that this is a moment for change, and it's an opportunity for us to embrace that change. There's the potential that we go back to a return to normal, where we're dominated by private car usage, but there are some changes that are promising with regard to people getting out of cars, going onto public transport or walking and cycling as well as part of their journey. So, it is a real opportunity as well, I think.  

I just want to explore that slightly further. Whilst there is obviously change that's happening, and you mentioned e-commerce—I was going to mention it, but you've mentioned it—there are still people who will still want to travel for other reasons. How do we cater for those people? And I'm talking here particularly about isolation, and people feeling the need to travel to maybe a town centre or whatever, just simply so that they can see someone else. I represent a rural area, so I'm quite mindful of people wanting to get out of their house, and the backfill of that is, if they can't do it, that isolation in and of itself causes social problems but also health implications for those individuals. Has anybody got anything to offer? If not, that's fair enough. 

I would just agree with you, but also recognise that we've seen rail and bus services reduced and services not coming back after the pandemic, and that has a significant impact on rural communities specifically. We know that public transport services have a really important role to play in enabling access to services and employment for rural communities, so I think it's correct to highlight that the impact on rural communities is one that we need to think through and we need to make sure that those transport options that are public transport options are available for people in rural Wales. 

Just to add a quick point to that and to quantify the bus cuts that have happened in Wales. According to data from the Department for Transport, bus services in Wales, as measured by vehicle kilometres, declined by 45 per cent in the 10 years between 2011/12 and 2020/21, but in that last year, between March 2020 and March 2021, which was the first year of the pandemic, just in this one year, the cuts were 36 per cent. So, that's when the majority of the cuts happened. Obviously, now, operators are being encouraged to adjust some of its provision to a new normal. So, if we cut services further, it will just lead to basically that vicious circle of decline again and people not being able to return to buses because they're not going to where they need them to be, they're not attractive enough, and it would just lead to growing isolation and people missing out on opportunities.

Public transport is obviously important to people that don't have access to private cars, but, with the modal shift imperative of climate change, obviously we want more people to be using public transport than private cars. So, it's very important that that provision remains. And that's why I think 'The real social network' campaign was so brilliant. It was very emotive when I first watched it, and it's liberating for people to be able to see relatives and friends in person again, but that obviously needs to be underpinned by much-improved provision, and the reprioritising of greener public transport as opposed to private vehicles. 

12:45

Thank you, Chair. I loved those points by Silviya there on what we need to do, but can I ask the panel—you don't all need to answer this—but if, and it is an if, we achieve the modal shift targets that the Welsh Government has, will those be enough to get the necessary reductions in greenhouse gases that we want to see, if we hit those targets?  

So, the first thing to say is that modal shift is very, very important in order to achieve the net-zero pathways that the Government has set. Central Government has focused very heavily on electrification and vehicle electrification in order to meet those targets, but it's widely recognised by the Climate Change Committee and independent research that has been done that modal shift or reduction in demand to the tune of 20 to 25 per cent overall would also be needed, in addition to vehicle electrification to meet those targets. The Welsh Government and the Scottish Government are the only ones, so it's nothing like the modal shift targets set in England or by central Government at all. So, it's very encouraging and leading in that sense—the target to reach 45 per cent of journeys by public transport, walking and cycling by 2040, up from 32 per cent at the moment, and also to reduce traffic per capita by 10 per cent. There isn't an equivalent of that in England. So, I think that in itself is leading and progressive.

I haven't done an analysis of whether that would be enough in order to reach overall targets, because it's in relation to the national pathways, but just achieving that would be ambitious and it would be leading in that sense. And, yes, obviously, we need to—. I'm not sure whether we're coming to how to achieve that in a further question, or whether I need to talk about this now, but I'm happy to. 

No, we'll probably come to that but, Sylviya, thank you. That's an encouraging response. Do any other panelists—? Have you crunched the numbers to see whether doing that modal shift and the demand reduction will get us to where we need to be on greenhouse gas emissions? 

I would say we haven't crunched the numbers for Transform Cymru. I think it's a very important piece of work to do; it's also a very complex piece of work to do, to see whether those ambitious targets are in line with where we need to go. The 'if' in your initial question was doing quite a lot of heavy lifting. We know that we're not hitting the targets that we need to and that, historically, transport accounts for 17 per cent of Welsh emissions, and that cars represent 55 per cent of all transport emissions. But since 1990, we've only see them fall by 6.3 per cent, and we know that that needs a lot of action and it needs a lot of addressing; 2040 is a long way away, but we need to see that action taken now to push us in the right direction, because, historically, the transport sector is falling far behind other sectors in terms of decarbonisation, whether that's agriculture or business or other sectors. Urgent action is required now, and transport's role needs to be recognised now as well to make sure that we're making that change. 

Thank you. There we are. Okay, thank you so much. We'll move on to Delyth, then. 

Diolch. It's quite a broad thematic question from me. How accessible and how inclusive do you think that public transport is in Wales, particularly in the context of the scale of transport poverty? The University of South Wales has suggested from its research that access to services by bus has declined most in the areas that face the most deprivation. So, in the context of that, and, of course, the cost-of-living crisis, how accessible is public transport in Wales, and how inclusive do you think that that is? I'm very aware that this is a very large and very broad question. 

Yes, thank you. Very broad, indeed, I agree. I think there are three aspects to it: accessibility, inclusion and the cost, the value-for-money side of it. In terms of accessibility, the persons of restricted mobility regulations have specified an improvement in the physical access of trains and buses, and that's been a real boon. I think that's been a good news story. Although, you do need aspects like ramps to actually be used and the training to be there for the staff to use them, which isn't always the case, so there's more work to be done on that front.

Passenger assist on rail, for example, has recently been improved to support booking up to two hours before people travel. Again, it remains to be seen how successful that is in terms of the experience, but new trains are being designed to have level access, so that kind of accessibility is being addressed. But there are also lots of issues to be addressed in terms of step-free access. So, you might be able to have level access onto the train, but have you got level access at the station and things like that?

Inclusion, which I think was the central part of the question you were asking—I think there are two sides to that. In terms of the reach of the network, our research shows that the second-highest priority for improving buses is for them to go to more places. So, you've got the reach of the network, the journey opportunities that people want to make, and more destinations covered by the network. But also it's time of day. For example, we're working with Transport for Wales to research the experience of the Fflecsi flexible bus pilots. The feedback from Newport, for example, is that it's given them a service for the first time in the evenings and Sundays. People are embarrassed, really, that somewhere the size of Newport doesn't have services in the evening and Sundays. And if that's true for Newport, how much more so for the more rural, outlying areas? So, there's a real opportunity here to set out an attractive and effective network to provide the journeys people want to make, but also at the times they want to travel. So, even if they can travel out, can they get back again? There's a real fear that people won't be able to do that, and that needs to be addressed to give people trust in the network.

On value for money, just very quickly, our research shows that, even before the current crisis, having better value-for-money tickets was already the second-highest priority for improvement, after punctuality, but the importance that passengers place on that priority is higher in Wales than it is in England and Scotland. So, I think that shows the picture as well. It's also an important priority on buses as well as rail, although not as pronounced on buses. I think it's also of higher importance for young people. If we're talking about bringing the next generation through, there's really got to be something done to encourage younger people. There are measures being taken at the moment to give free travel for younger people, and I think that's a real case of encouraging them to use it, but they will still, at a certain age, face that cliff face in terms of having to pay the adult fare, and the affordability of that needs to be underpinned to be able to bring the next generation through.

12:50

If I can add very quickly, we did research together with Local Trust on trust for connectivity in left-behind areas. This research was focused on England, so I don't have Welsh findings, but perhaps it's something that we can replicate in due time. What this showed was that left-behind communities and those that are already deprived and lack that social capital already, causing them to be left behind—86 per cent of them have worse transport connectivity than the England average. So, that basically shows that we're neglecting communities that are already deprived and we need to improve transport connectivity in those areas. So, that's coastal communities, those on the suburbs of large towns, those in more remote locations. If you want to level up the country, transport connectivity is important to target areas like that.

Sustrans Cymru, in the last couple of weeks, launched a report on the very issues that you're talking about in terms of transport poverty. So, I'm really glad that you've asked a question about that, because I really want to see some time dedicated to that. The report found that, in many areas across Wales, more than half of households are spending over 10 per cent of their income on the cost of running a car, whether they have one or not. Whilst this is an imperfect metric for measuring transport poverty, what it says is that many people across Wales are experiencing transport poverty today. And as your question alluded to, it's making people have to make difficult choices around food, heating and transport. And transport feels—. In many of the conversations around this, it's the thing that's not mentioned around the squeeze on incomes.

And also, it's correct to say that it's predominantly more rural areas of Wales that are least able to access services necessary for day-to-day life, which is another consideration around transport poverty. And we also know that transport poverty is having the most severe impact on those who already face barriers, whether that's people with disabilities, whether that's older people. For example, half of rail stations in Wales are not fully accessible to disabled people, and 34 per cent have no wheelchair access either. So, this means that there are a number of people who are locked out of the transport system, and, in terms of actions on behalf of this, I'm glad that we're talking about it now, but also there need to be plans for making sure that any transport interventions that we make are aimed at alleviating transport poverty, which we know is a real issue, especially if the cost-of-living crisis is going to continue to hit over the medium term, which, unfortunately, it seems like that will be the case.

So, yes, I'm glad you asked the question, but it is worrying.  

12:55

Before I invite Delyth to come back, can I just interject maybe? In the evidence we received in the previous session, there was a suggestion that there might sometimes be some unintended consequences to certain initiatives. The bus pass for older people was mentioned, and it was flagged up that there might be a risk, because it's seen as a guaranteed revenue, that there might be some sort of subconscious bias in terms of focusing on services that might be used by these people, as opposed to maybe providing services at times where people, younger people particularly, need to get to work or education or something like that. Is there anything that you've seen that suggests that that is happening, or is a risk in your view? I'm looking at you, David, but, Joe, anyone, really. 

I think one of the risks is in terms of—. We mentioned earlier on the fact that people with concessionary passes are not necessarily returning to travel in as great a number. And I think one of the risks with that is that, particularly through a commercial lens, operators could look at their services and think, 'Well, the daytime services that would have been the provision for that aren't being used, so we'll start to cut those back.' I think there's a real risk that the services could be eroded, and more needs to be done to look at ensuring that that support is there, so that there isn't the need to look at that through that commercial lens, because erosion of those services—. It's very difficult to get them back once they've started to go, and I think that would be a detriment to the network. 

No, no, it's fine. In addition to what you've all said already, is there anything specific, anything in addition that's specific, that you think that either policy makers or transport operators should be doing to respond to and anticipate how the cost-of-living crisis is probably going to deepen and worsen in the coming months?

Again, I think it goes back to what we were saying about one of the key barriers being cost. One of the key things that could be done is to incentivise people to give transport a go, with maybe special ticket offers. And I think loyalty schemes are something that has come through our research again and again—people want to see that kind of thing to reward them for using transport. So, I think the cost aspect in terms of more flexible tickets—. Transport for Wales has got the multiflex ticket, which I think has been a really useful addition to the ticket range. But I think ticketing needs to be simplified, it needs to be made cheaper, and it needs to encourage people to give it a go, maybe with stories from other people. We did some work in the west Midlands for example, Give Bus a Go, and then we broadcast quite widely, in terms of people's experience, on social media and those sorts of things, and it encouraged other people to try it. Those sorts of things are actually quite valuable in terms of how loudly they speak to others. 

Similar to what David said, I can point to the regional network initiative—'Give the train a try', I believe it is. So, it can work both ways, but, obviously, ticketing and promotions and reducing the cost of public transport is important, and many countries are contrasting the increasing cost of fuel, which Governments have little control over, with reductions in public transport—so, the likes of Ireland and Luxembourg, which have had free public transport fares for some time. Germany is introducing reductions in public transport fares. So, promoting that as an alternative to the costly use of private cars I think would be quite important, and obviously has additional benefits, as well as reducing the cost of travel to the public.

13:00

Yes. I think, just broadly speaking, we know that this is an issue and we need a clear plan of action on addressing transport poverty that is targeted at those that most need it. And I think, at the moment, we don't sufficiently understand how our policy interventions impact those that most need it, whether that's people with disabilities or whether that's people in low-income households. And unless we analyse that, we don't know if the interventions we're making at the moment are having that impact that we want to have. So, I think that's an important aspect of it as well.

I thank the three of you. Thank you. And then, finally from me, picking up that theme of behaviour change, and in the context of the need to decarbonise generally in the economy, the fact that we have some areas that in particular will see particularly or most prevalent low usage or low take-up of public transport, how do you think that policy makers and operators should be responding to shifting behaviours in that context? So, we've talked about it in terms of cost of living, but also, the need to decarbonise as well—it's a different focus, or it's a different strategy, is it? How do you think it would need to—? The nice differences that would need to be—. I mean 'nice' in its specific sense there.

Just more broadly, in terms of incentives and behaviour change and that modal shift to public transport that's required, it's broadly recognised that we need a mixture of carrots and sticks in order to get people to change their behaviour. The first thing, really, is to increase awareness among the general public, both of why that behavioural shift is required—so, the fact that public transport could be cheaper than the private car, as just mentioned, is one thing; the climate change imperative is another. Air pollution is also a big factor, but many people are still not aware of the significant, damaging health impacts that pollution can cause, and also how high air pollution can be in their local area. So, increasing that awareness, but also telling people what they can do themselves, because, sometimes, people might feel that their individual behaviour is not impactful enough—[Inaudible.]

Okay. Silviya's picture has frozen. I'm not sure whether she can hear us—it might just be a glitch. We'll see whether that can be rectified. Are we happy to move on to the next question? Or, Joe, did you want to add something first? [Interruption.] Oh, Silviya, sorry, you're back now—we lost you for a moment. Do you want to just repeat the final point that you made? Thank you.

So, explaining to people that their own behaviour has a role to play, so that everyone has a role to play in achieving that big change that we need, and also demonstrating to people how easy it can be to make a switch, through things like behaviour change programmes, workplace or university travel planning initiatives, can play a big role. But, in terms of the carrots, it's everything that we talked about in terms of making sure that public transport is attractive, but also the wider alternatives—so, shared mobility, car share, e-scooter hire—and offering mobility credits is another way to shift the dial away from affordability. So, when someone moves house, for example, the local authority can offer them a free bus pass for a limited amount of time, in order to try the local transport options. But we also need a bit of, obviously, political leadership at the local level for adjusting the pricing. So, for example, parking provision and parking costs are a big lever in this. So, reallocating some space away from parking, or having higher prices for residents' parking permits, might impact on how many cars a household has. So, it might deter people from buying a second car, for example.

Charging schemes, obviously, are very important. So, they both nudge people away from driving, if they can take public transport as an alternative, but they also have the benefit of raising revenue for investing locally in local schemes, such as public transport or cycling infrastructure. So, there are lots of things that can be done, both on the regional and national level, but also the local level.

13:05

Thank you. I'm glad you repeated that. There was a lot of good stuff there, actually. Joe.

I agree—there was a lot of good stuff. I would completely agree with the carrot and stick analogy. I think that's a really important way of thinking about it. We need to make it easier for people to travel on public transport and also walk, wheel and cycle. But, equally, we need to be clear that it needs to be more difficult for people to make those decisions that are lower down on the sustainable transport hierarchy, which is what the Welsh Government's perspective is.

But, linking it back to transport poverty, I would just say that cost is a huge factor. We've seen over the decades that the cost of driving a private car has been cheaper than using public transport, and, you know, ultimately, if we are to uphold the sustainable transport hierarchy, then we need to flip that on its head so that people are incentivised to make the most sustainable journeys that they possibly can. 

And also, I would completely echo the calls for behavioural change. We've seen lots of important investment into infrastructure when it comes to—whether that's walking and cycling specifically—the links to public transport, because, as we know, people walk and cycle to their public transport and then walk and cycle out of the public transport. But also we need to see those comprehensive behavioural change programmes, because we need to win hearts and minds and get people to make those difficult decisions to take the most sustainable transport.

Sorry, Silviya—sorry, Jenny wants to come in first and we'll come back to you.

[Inaudible.]—experience of street harassment. I've seen surveys done with students and young people in secondary school talking about harassment on the bus. So, I just wondered, as you're part of a coalition, whose responsibility is it to address feeling unsafe on the bus—

I'm not sure Jenny's microphone is working. She was just asking whose responsibility it is to address safety on buses for travellers.

I think it's incumbent on all of us, isn't it? It's a cultural change that needs to take place. I'm glad you mentioned it, because I think safety is something that people don't often talk about when they're talking about this, whether that's on public transport or whether that's travelling actively, and that is something that stops people from using public transport services and is all of our responsibility, but is also distinctly Government's responsibility, local government's responsibility, the service provider's responsibility. But also it's important that we talk about it, like you're talking about it today, to make sure that we're aware that safety is an important element of it as well. And it is something that we see that isn't—. Safety is a real barrier for people travelling actively or for going on public transport as well.

Particularly, surely, it's the service provider's responsibility and they can just stop the bus and say, 'We're not going on until this activity ceases.'

Yes, okay. Thank you for that. Silviya, you wanted to pick up on something.

Yes, just briefly on the behaviours, the modal shift decisions—so, early prioritising of investment has also got a key role to play. That's why we welcomed the roads review that the Welsh Government implemented. So, investing in new roads capacity, it's widely recognised that that just makes road traffic much worse by induced demand—so, the more capacity there is, the more people travel. So, reducing that investment in new roads is important. And also the money that is saved in that—obviously, there's still money that needs to be invested in existing road infrastructure in terms of maintenance—that can then be reprioritised to make public transport cheaper and to invest in public transport connectivity. So, reprioritising those decisions, I think, is important.

Reducing vehicle speeds can also impact, both in terms of saving fuel consumption and reducing fuel consumption in the cost-of-living-crisis context, but also it has, immediately, carbon reduction impacts because it prevents the engine from working as hard. I believe that is the technical context behind that.

Thank you so much. Joyce, did you want to pick up on some of this area? I think we've already touched on some of it.

Yes, the only thing that hasn't been touched on is the road user charging policy that has been suggested and any views that you might have on that. But that's the only area that hasn't been touched on.

13:10

I think that is one of the tools that can certainly be applied, and it's probably going to be something that we will see more often. There are a number of places around Britain that are already looking at that. Manchester has probably been quite high profile in the news recently, with the Greater Manchester mayor having to go back to Westminster because his scheme would give a disadvantage to people to actually afford to pay for it, and would drive up the cost of businesses using transport, which is one of the risks of putting that into place.

I think, though, that, ultimately, there have to be sticks as well as carrots. So, yes, you've got to provide an attractive network as the pull factor, but you've also got to provide the push factor, to actually prompt people to think about—. Because otherwise, they get quite comfortable in what they're used to and they have to have a bit of a wake-up call as to, 'Well, what other choices are out there?' and to push them into looking at those.

So, I think road user charging is one of those things. Workplace car park charging is another one, and car parking in town and city centres is another one to look at in terms of giving people better public transport opportunities. So, for example, one of the road schemes that recently was looked at was to give better access to buses to Severn Tunnel Junction station, and that gives people another opportunity, rather than driving to the station, to actually give them an incentive.

But I think carrots and sticks have to go together. You've got to have the attractive network to pull people across, but you've also got to have the push factor that gives people that prompt to look in other directions.

Just to add to that: so road user charging or road pricing is the sort of single most effective tool, I believe, to drive behaviour change. Firstly, because as David said, it makes people think about making the choices of how they travel, and making greener choices, and more sustainable choices, and secondly, because it enables authorities—[Inaudible.]—to borrow against or to use, to invest in the alternatives. So, it's really a two-pronged benefit, and there are ways to implement it, so there are many forms of it.

National road pricing for vehicle taxation, for example, which is something that central Government is considering, is very different from local charging, which authorities can implement for tackling air pollution and congestion and reaching net-zero imperatives. And both Governments need to act in order to enable that to happen. We've currently got a project that is considering how a national scheme can integrate with local schemes and to what extent they should be integrated, but ultimately, it requires decision making at a local level. I know that Cardiff is considering implementing a scheme in Wales, and how that works, I think, will be very important. But there are ways for people to be brought on board with changes, so, as I said, increasing awareness of why schemes like that needs to happen and also what they can bring, going forward. And places that have implemented schemes like that, so Nottingham, has been very successful. That has been in place, the workplace parking levy has been in place for many years. Other areas like Waltham Forest and Ealing in London have implemented road-space allocation, not charging specifically, but they have increased support after it's been implemented, given that people see the benefits of schemes like that once they have been implemented.

Okay, thank you very much. We have around three other areas that we'd like to cover, which gives us probably five minutes for each of those, so I'll allow Jenny a quick supplementary, and then you can take us on to the first of those three.

Okay. Quick supplementary, which is around the push factor posed by the rise and rise of petrol and diesel prices, because Silviya, in your paper, you talk about the way in which the cost of owning a car has risen much less than the cost of travelling by bus or coach, but that was up to 2020. So, surely, in 2022, has the balance shifted to give a kick-start for people to leave the car at home and go by bus to commute to school or work?

13:15

Obviously, the price of driving has increased, but still not to the extent of fares, for example. In March this year, we saw the biggest rail fares increase in nine years. I'm hoping that the increase in fuel costs is making people think about what options they have, and that's why I said that promotions and promoting public transport as alternatives would be very important in this context.

Just to say that, yes, obviously, we're seeing that cars are becoming more expensive, but this is going to freeze more people out as well. We don't want to see everyone shut out from every single type of transport, so I think—. Just to add to that kind of transport poverty piece, I guess, is on that. But, yes, we are seeing more parity, aren't we, in the price of each?

Okay. But nothing you can add to that, David Beer, because, obviously, your focus is on this.

I think that it—. Again, just to echo the points that other people have made.

Okay. All right. Fine. So, just moving on to the Welsh Government's proposal to introduce a Wales-wide franchised bus service. Silviya, in your paper, you express concern about whether the public sector has the expertise, as well as the financial resources. I wonder if you could just elaborate a little bit on that.

The local authority capacity and capability issue, I think, has been raised in the past. We've done some research for the Department for Transport ahead of their publication of a national bus strategy on to what extent authorities have that capacity to implement the reforms required. And that focused on England, so I don't have specific Welsh findings, but all the time, local authority teams that are responsible for that have really diminished in terms of resource, size of teams and capability and expertise, so it's something that needs to be looked at. And the regulatory framework that Wales then implements for moving towards franchising needs to enable every level of government to play its role, together with bus operators, to make it work effectively. It's just one of the areas that needs to be considered going forward.

[Inaudible.]—an earlier evidence session said, 'We have to seize the moment. Even if you don't have the expertise, you have to develop it', as we did when we took over the rail franchise. So, what is your experience, both David and Joe, of the experience in Scotland and England of really using the franchising system to drive the change we need?

I think that we haven't seen enough of that being put in place, particularly. England is going down the route of having bus service improvement plans and enhanced partnerships. We're doing an awful lot of work to support local authorities through that, giving them guidance on setting targets and having things like passenger charters in place. Where we have seen it going into the franchising side is in greater Manchester, for example. And one of the views that we gave to greater Manchester when they were consulting on putting that in place was that, from a passenger perspective, particularly from a financial point of view, we think that an authority underpinning in terms of franchising can give greater stability and probably a bigger safety net to the network in the current financial situation. So, that was one of the things that we said there. Again, the resource and expertise, yes, it is a risk, but I think I agree that we do have to seize the moment and put that into place.

But I think, from a passenger perspective, it's less about the means by which you do that—so whether that's partnership or franchise or whatever—but it has to deliver for passengers. So, the closer that the specifications and the targets reflect people's needs, the better the chance that they'll deliver the types of services that people want, which will be valuable, and will bring in new users to be able to grow the market and support that modal shift.

13:20

Okay. So, Joe, do you think that it doesn't matter who actually owns the bus, it's about controlling the objectives?

Yes. Broadly, I agree with everything that everyone's said before, to be honest. Capacity and expertise are an issue, but as long as we're clear that this is going to take a lot of investment—a long-term investment—then, you know, that needs to be considered. But also that, yes, we've supported in principle that Welsh Government, Transport for Wales and local government are in a good position to design services and meet the needs of communities across Wales, and I think that that enables a holistic view of what bus services deliver for people across Wales, and kind of brings it together with all the rest of what Welsh Government are doing in terms of trying to increase modal shift, as well.

Thank you, Chair. Great British Railways: have you got any views on whether this works for Wales, whether it fits with all the things we've been discussing and our reforms, or is it a hindrance? What do you think?

In general, we support the aim of rail reform to create a sense of someone being in overall control, and I think that that's come through our research as well—people expect there to be that kind of guiding mind that takes responsibility. Track and train have been too fragmented for far too long and there's been too much blame-passing between different aspects, different parts of the industry, and that was borne out by the timetable crisis in 2018, when there was a real meltdown and that need hasn't gone away.

It's hard to assess the implications for Wales specifically, because we don't know enough about how devolution will be handled. I think that that's been quite opaque in terms of being able to understand what the plan is. Welsh Government will retain the franchising role, but how that works with the network bit that will be under Great British Railways remains to be seen. And will that still mean a split between train and track? Because knitting track and train together to make it seamless for passengers, it has to give that real attractive network and it has to be something that passengers just find easy to use and something that delivers the services and the basics of the reliable trustworthy services that passengers want at an affordable price, and that is the pull factor that is going to create that modal shift. But that knitting together has to be seamless in order to create that and we're not seeing how that's going to work at the moment.

Thanks. Is there anything else from the other panellists in terms of what we should be saying to Welsh Government about making sure that they advocate for within Great British Railways?

Just to echo David's point, really, about having greater control of investments in infrastructure. At the moment, obviously, it's centred on Network Rail, but having a greater handle on this would improve the Government's ability to make decisions in terms of investment and the running of services. Fares is another big issue that needs to be tackled and a fares reform and simplifying fares is something that we've been talking in great detail to the transition team about.

So, on fares and so on—sorry, Chair, we're up against time—that argues for greater control here in Wales, about knitting together our fares structure, including an element of the devolution of management of fares within Wales.

I'm not sure about the technicality in terms of the devolution arrangements on this, but what we're saying is that there needs to be, across the board, root-and-branch reform of all fares across the country. So, greater simplification and making sure that the differences between operators are reduced. At the moment, we have different levels of discount, for example, between peak and off-peak fares from different operators, so making sure that it's much simpler and coherent and less dependent on where you are, so that passengers understand fares much better.

Thank you very much. So, we come to our last area of questioning and I'll invite Janet to lead us on this one.

Thank you. At the end of last year, my Welsh Conservative colleague Darren Millar identified that while south Wales metro was due to receive £1 billion of earmarked funding, the north Wales metro would only receive 5 per cent of this funding, at £50 million. How will this shocking imbalance of funding support help achieve Welsh Government targets of seeing 13 per cent of all trips being made by public transport?

13:25

Okay. Well, I don't know if anybody wants to respond to that. It's a question to Government, to an extent.

It is, and I think the disparity in those figures is quite stark in terms of what it will deliver. I think the metro systems and the ability to bring a network together of unified services is incredibly important to deliver a step change in service provision, to provide the attractive networks that we've been talking about today. Yes, new trains, new services have been a long time coming; they will be delivered for the Valleys in particular, but also, north Wales will see those, the Marches line will see those, and the Heart of Wales, the Cambrian. The different lines in Wales will see new trains coming into fruition. How that puts together, in terms of the rail services and the bus services coming together in a metro system, I think people still aren't sure what to expect, and I don't think that narrative has been out there to help them to understand. It's there to a certain extent, but there's scope for much more communication.

I think in terms of putting that out there, it also has to be there in terms of the governance. Yes, those figures are quite starkly different, but how that's being delivered needs to have that expertise, needs to have that governance in place, and it also needs to have that independent representation. Yes, we've been part of the Transport for Wales advisory panel, and the Welsh Government have now got the transport performance board in place, which is a similar body. But some things remain to be seen in terms of how that governance is going to deliver what's being planned for those different metro services. For example, how will the CJCs work together with Transport for Wales, and how will that dynamic work? We don't know, we haven't really seen what that will bring to fruition.

In the buses White Paper, we're seeing that there are proposals for a supervisory board, which, again, needs to be seen in terms of what that's going to deliver for the governance and for the delivery of those services. It needs to have really effective representation of what people want in terms of the users and in terms of everything that we've been talking about today in order to protect their interests and to provide for the independent view coming in. And that needs to be held to account and scrutinised in terms of having open and transparent publishing of performance, as well as the plans to deliver.

Before I invite Joe and Silviya to respond, maybe, Jenny, you could ask the question that you wanted to bring up, and then we can conclude with comments from each of you then.

I think it's about making the modal shift as fast as we need to make it in light of the climate emergency, and whether the metros are able to drive that modal shift in our three main urbanised areas, our main centres of population. So, for example, in the south-east Wales area, we've got the Cardiff capital region, all the local authorities are represented, and therefore you've got the expertise that the local authorities already have to really ensure that we're joining up the dots in terms of where people need to travel. Are you convinced that, based on what you've seen, that is going to deliver what we need, and therefore could be rolled out to, say, north Wales, which is less far down the path?

I think there's a fundamental difference between the authorities that are available in south-east Wales up against north Wales. I think the expertise that was there when the transport consortia were around has been lost. So, to a certain extent, there's some catching up to do and a gap in that expertise that needs to be addressed. I think the coming together in south-east Wales has been really useful and has tied together those different authorities. I think city regions—. So, for example in Swansea, the authorities round there are coming together to start to deliver services in that area. So, there is a lot of work that's being done.

I think there's more to do, but there's a little bit of uncertainty around how that's going to work with the CJCs, for example, because bringing planning together with transport, I think, is an important step. So, there's some value in what they're going to deliver. But also, in the way in which the remit of Transport for Wales is broadening to being more multimodal, they're still going through that transition and that expansion of capability, and that's a piece of work that needs to gain momentum in order to underpin the ability to move into north Wales, for example, and deliver the metro that's intended there.

13:30

Thank you very much, David. Briefly, Sylviya, just in response to the metro, then I'll give Joe the same opportunity. Then, we will have to conclude.

I don't have much to add on this, apart from saying that the union connectivity review, for example, and the north Wales commission will be important opportunities going forward to address any imbalances.

Likewise, I think David has spoken quite authoritatively on this, so not much to add beyond the fact that major infrastructure projects aren't a panacea when it comes to modal shift. I think they have an important role to play, but, equally—

Thank you, Janet. There we are. Janet has been muted now. Okay. Sorry, Joe.

But they just need to be integrated with the planning approaches, 20-minute neighbourhoods, ability to access them via walking, cycling and wheeling, rather than being car dependent, because there is a risk you could just have people driving their cars to a metro station and then driving their cars away from a metro station. So, it's all about thinking holistically, but, in principle, yes, they have an important role to play.

Wonderful. There's so much to think about and there's so much that needs doing, but we're very grateful to you for imparting so much information to us as a committee. It's really enriching our deliberation on this. No doubt we'll be chasing you again for more information and, I'm sure, further contributions over the months and years to come as well. But thank you, the three of you, for your presence here this afternoon. You will be sent a draft transcript to check for accuracy, and, all being well, of course, then that will stand as a record of the meeting.

Can I thank Members as well? We'll now break for 10 minutes. I'll invite Members to join us again at 13:40, and then we'll try and start as soon as we can after that for our final session this afternoon. Diolch yn fawr.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 13:32 a 13:43.

The meeting adjourned between 13:32 and 13:43.

13:40
4. Teithio ar fysiau a’r rheilffordd yng Nghymru - sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
4. Bus and rail transport in Wales - evidence session 3

Croeso nôl i'r pwyllgor. Dŷn ni'n symud i bedwaredd eitem y cyfarfod heddiw i barhau â'r dystiolaeth ar deithio ar fysiau a'r rheilffordd yng Nghymru, ac rŷn ni'n symud at banel o gynrychiolwyr o'r sector bysiau a thrafnidiaeth gymunedol. Croeso i chi. Gwnaf i ofyn i chi i gyflwyno eich hunain yn fyr, os gwnewch chi, ac fe wnawn ni ddechrau fan hyn, gyda Gemma.

Welcome back to the committee. We move on to item 4 of the meeting today to continue with the evidence on bus and rail transport in Wales. We move to a panel representing the bus and community transport sector. Welcome to you all. I'll ask you all to introduce yourselves for the record briefly, starting with Gemma.

Diolch, Chair. My name's Gemma Lelliott. I'm the director for Wales for the Community Transport Association. 

Josh Miles. Director for Wales for the Confederation of Passenger Transport.

Prynhawn da. I'm Jane Reakes-Davies. I'm the managing director of First Cymru Buses and the chair of the CPT in Wales.

Good afternoon. I'm Bev Fowles, vice-chairman of Coach and Bus Association Cymru. 

There we are. Good to see the four of you. Thank you for your attendance today. We'll go straight into questions, if that's okay, and I'll kick off and ask you whether bus and rail passenger numbers—. We know they remain below pre-pandemic levels. Is that due, still, to public health concerns, or is there something more fundamental at play? Josh.

13:45

Do you want me to start? So, I think, in practice, there are two things going on there. So, there have been fundamental things that have been changing before COVID, and COVID has probably made those changes happen a lot quicker. Things like shift to online shopping, working from home—those sorts of trends that have had an impact on demand for bus services. So, that's definitely a factor that's changed as a result of the pandemic. The other element is around safety onboard and the public health message. We know, for instance, concessionary pass holders are less likely to return to public transport than your average fare-paying passenger. So, there are definitely still concerns there that need to be addressed, I think. In the fullness of time, we've done some modelling, as CPT, and the evidence we've got back suggests we'll be reaching sort of 90 per cent of pre-COVID passenger levels by around 2030 if we carry on on the current trajectory.

Yes, so it's going to be a fairly quick recovery, I think, up until around the 80, 85 mark, although we're not there yet, and then quite a long tail until we get to there. So, yes, that presents a lot of challenges for the sector in terms of viability and for general ambitions around modal shift and climate change and those sorts of things.

From the point of view of the community transport sector, we've seen ridership return to pre-pandemic levels already and, in some places, we're seeing some operators struggling to meet the demand of passengers looking to take up community transport journeys. I think some of that has been—as Josh mentioned, we've had some passengers who use concessionary passes perhaps choosing community transport over mainstream public transport, where that choice is available to them, because they felt safer, they've had additional support, particularly where we've seen a significant number of older passengers and disabled people, where their health has deteriorated as a result of shielding at home and minimal activity, and therefore they've needed an additional level of support in order to be able to travel with safety and dignity. So, the community transport sector has been able to support that and enable that to take place.

I think one of the things that the member organisations within the CTA network are telling us now is there is a concern about the number of journeys that they're having to decline, because they're not in a position to be able to carry the number of passengers that are looking for a service. So, it's quite a stark contrast, I would say, in significant sections of Wales, against the commercial bus network, in terms of what passengers are looking for.

I think one of the things that will hamper us going forward is the decline in retail in the town and city centres, which is a direct affect of COVID. There aren't as many shops there these days as there were pre pandemic, and our recovery will probably come as that recovers. The challenge is that if that doesn't recover, then there is a big challenge for the bus industry.

Yes, okay, thank you very much. There we are. We'll move on, then, to Joyce.

It's already been touched on there by community transport, but it's about the level of uncertainty in demand and how that is affecting bus and rail travel, and whether you've made any assessment of how we should be looking to move forward.

Shall I start with that one?

I think what you're finding, in the urban areas, is it's quite easy to assess the demand, because we can track the numbers. When you're in the outer-urban areas, I think that's where we're becoming quite challenged, and the frequency of travel is quite challenging to work through. Now, we've had to change some of our networks to adjust to demand, and the fact that we've probably faced the most challenging resourcing position the bus industry has ever seen, in terms of driver numbers, and people have, unfortunately, made decisions to leave the industry and seek employment elsewhere because there's more certainty, perhaps, in those areas than there are in others. We work very closely with the local authorities trying to understand what feedback they're having from members of the public around demand, but we are relentlessly just looking to see how the customer behaves, and they have behaved quite differently than we predicted them to.

Okay. Anybody else want to pick up on that? No. Okay. Joyce, was there anything else you wanted to pursue? 

13:50

No. I was just looking at—. It was about the uncertainty, basically, but I think it's been answered.

The point you make about insufficient numbers of drivers is interesting. It's not one that's been mentioned yet today. I don't know whether's there's any view on that particularly, Bev.

There certainly is. I think the management teams throughout Wales and possibly the rest of the UK have had extremely challenging times with the shortage of drivers caused by numerous reasons. Brexit would be one, where an awful lot of drivers left the area, most of those lorry drivers, but, of course, lorry drivers and bus drivers, coach drivers, they go hand in hand—they've usually got both the licences. Quite clearly, the haulage sector was able to offer far better terms to individuals, and so coach or bus saw a big draft of drivers leaving the industry during the period. Not to put too indelicate a point on it, a lot of drivers didn't come through the COVID period. We did have casualties, there's no doubt about it, and I think certainly a lot of drivers did take early retirement, purely and simply because they were coming to the closing stages of their careers, if you like, and they thought they'd just finish them that much earlier, because COVID was so nasty.

So, I think, yes, certainly, the whole industry has felt the impact of drivers. In my own small company we've just started our own driving school. That would never, ever have been thought of over the last 20, 30 years, that a small 40-vehicle company would decide to have its own trainer bus and its own trainer. But we see it as possibly the only way.

Thank you, Chair. Just briefly, Josh, I wonder if I can pick up on your point about the 2030 idea of getting back to where passenger numbers are. Why so long? And have you run different scenarios on this to see if anything could be done to change that, and to get us back and above where we were before then?

The modelling was done on the assumption of no big changes, so just to try and understand what the trend is, and what the key factors are there. I've got some of the data here, actually. We presented it at a cross-party group on public transport fairly recently, but the key factors that lead into it are around the types of travel people undertake. Bev mentioned shopping earlier on, for example; whereas before the pandemic an amount of shopping was done online, that went up dramatically during the pandemic. It's come down since, but hasn't come down to where it was in 2019. That then leads to a direct reduction in the number of people who want to travel for shopping purposes. You can see the same for education—more university courses, for example, are delivered online. The same for the workplace and commuting—people are hybrid working. And when you put all of that together, you end up with a mix of external factors that are just complete behaviour changes that prevent people coming back in the same numbers that they did before. So, the pandemic really has been a sort of through-the-looking-glass moment in that respect.

Your question around what could be done to change that—well, I think there are a couple of things, actually. So, the first bit, for the here and now, is addressing that issue of confidence amongst the travelling public, particularly for concessionary pass holders, that travelling by bus is safe to do. One of the things I'd love to see is perhaps Government Ministers getting out and about on the bus network, being seen to do that sort of thing, and show we are in that phase of the pandemic where that kind of recovery is possible.

The second thing is making it clear that public transport is a viable alternative to other means of travel. One of the things we've seen is lots of people stopped travelling during the pandemic, lost the habit, and now we've got to activate the triggers to make them think again about what kind of habits they can change. So, Transport for Wales has got a comms campaign going at the moment. That's good news, but we need to see a lot more of those sorts of things if we're going to start to get into people's way of thinking and start to change their behaviours.

And then the final thing is trying to make bus as a mode of transport much more attractive. We could run those models again in a more attractive environment where you've got investment to tackle things like congestion, make buses quicker, make them more appealing compared to the car, and we might see more positive figures then. But that requires much more concerted action from Government and local authorities, as well as bus companies, to make that a reality, I think. 

13:55

Before I bring Bev in, I think Joyce wants to raise something as well. Joyce, did you want to pick up on something as well?

Yes, I did. It was just the bus driver training in small companies as an opportunity, perhaps, for some people in an area to learn skills close to home, and whether there's any offer of help from Government or, if there was any offer of help in terms of apprenticeships or whatever else, whether that might aid some of the opportunities that I think perhaps some people might take up.

Just to add to Josh's comments there, I think probably the alarming thing, as far as bus companies are concerned, and I'm sure Jane has experienced the same as us, is that as we came out of COVID, we saw a recovery, but the recovery has gone flat. The reason that is given for it going flat is that so much has changed, and obviously a lot of it is way beyond bus companies' control. So, that's the 2030 bit, because really we don't want to be overly optimistic about how quickly it's going to recover. I think 2030 perhaps can be improved and will be improved, but I think you have to take a sensible attitude to it at the moment, and it's because of the amount of change that we've seen the recovery but the recovery has gone flat. We were expecting a more gradual graph out of COVID. When it goes flat, you do get a bit alarmed. 

As Josh will testify, I've talked about how people's behaviour has changed as part of our CPT discussions. What you would have tended to find when you tracked concessionary passes is that someone who may live in Ammanford, for example, would spend one day visiting Llanelli, one day visiting Swansea, and one day visiting Carmarthen. And across the week, they may have been on the bus four or five times. And what they've actually done now is reduced the number of times they leave and catch buses to probably more like once a week, and I think that's the point particularly around the concessions. I think we've seen a glimmer, but actually when I compare us in Wales to my counterparts in England, we've seen a seed change in the bounce back of concessionary card holders. So, they are the group of individuals who I see have changed more significantly than others. 

Going back to the point around the trajectory to 2030, my company is predominantly based in the Swansea area, and what we've seen is the volume of local traffic in that area go up significantly since the pandemic. And I think trying to attract people out of their cars and into buses really needs some support with the local authorities to make the journey times shorter, because that is the only way we will appeal to the car drivers to take them out of their cars and catch a bus. And I'm more than happy, as Josh suggested, if any Ministers wish to come and travel on my buses. I'm sure we'd all support that, having a day where we travel across bus networks and experience it from the realm of the customer and how the customer actually makes their journeys every day. 

Yes. Excellent. Okay. I've got a feeling that will find its way into our report somewhere. [Laughter.] Okay. We'll move on now then to Delyth. Diolch. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Prynhawn da to everyone. In addition to what you've already been saying, and building on that, could you talk us through whether you think the Government's modal shift targets are ambitious enough to achieve the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, please?

Do you want me to pick up that one first? I think they're really ambitious. I think being ambitious is a good thing, so there's nothing inherently bad in an ambitious target. What's absolutely key is that there is concerted action underneath to make those ambitions a reality. I'm not entirely sure we're at that point yet. I think there's more work to be done to do the sorts of things we need to do to make modal shift attractive, to shift us from that 2030 trajectory that we're on onto a new trajectory. 

Jane just gave a really good example there around bus priority measures. Wales isn't particularly good compared to other parts of the UK in introducing bus priority measures. There is a lot of funding for it in England. In Scotland, there's a £500 million bus partnership fund that is there to be used by local authorities and bus operators to target those key corridors that make buses quicker, therefore making them cheaper and more effective and more appealing to the passenger. So, we don't do that at scale at the moment in Wales, and I think that's the sort of thing we need to be looking at if we really want to shift the narrative and make buses more attractive. 

I did send you a diagram in my submission around the bus industry's vicious cycle. It's quite simple, really. We can reverse all of those factors when we start to tackle things like congestion, and then the cycle goes into a virtuous cycle and we start to get more people on buses, and modal shift happens. 

14:00

I suppose a connected point, really, for me is thinking about the accessibility and the integration of the transport network and how important that is in facilitating that modal shift, because I do think that the targets are ambitious but have got the potential to be achievable, and will make a big difference in terms of achieving those net-zero aspirations. But, as it stands at the moment, the connections between the different modes of transport, particularly for someone who's making the transition from active travel to rail, active travel to bus, community transport to any of the mainstream public transport networks—. There is a disconnection there. There isn't any integrated ticketing at the moment. There are concerns for passengers with additional mobility support needs about their ability to be able to use the other modes of transport smoothly and easily, with dignity and safety. And I think that is something that fundamentally needs to be addressed, if those modal shift targets are going to be achieved. 

We need to see—and this is something that I highlighted in my submission to the committee—we need to see every passenger as someone of value. And, as a result of that value of that passenger, and how important it is to be able to support that passenger safely through the different modes of transport, we need to invest in making that system more integrated and more accessible. Therefore, the feasibility of modal shift, I think, will become more realistic. 

I think we have to accept that we have an ancient infrastructure that we are operating on, and that's very difficult for bus companies, and it's very, very difficult to achieve modal shift. The ambitions in the White Paper are admirable, and I think everybody around the table would love to be able to achieve them. I don't think they will be achieved by the dates that are set, which will be a pity, but I think the ambition has to be applauded. How we achieve that with the infrastructure that we work under is going to be very, very difficult, and possibly will need some deep pockets somewhere, because the bus can only go as fast as the car goes in front of it. If we haven't got any priority—and there's very, very little priority in Wales; there's very, very little priority in the UK, to be frank with you, but, in Wales, it's probably even slightly less than the best parts of the UK—. Really, modal shift will only happen if it's more attractive. And it can only be made more attractive if the infrastructure is improved. 

Well, the message is clear there. Absolutely, thank you. Okay, we'll move on, then, to Janet. 

Thank you. What systems are being adopted to make transport in Wales more affordable for all its citizens, especially when research suggests that 25 per cent of bus users are disabled or have a long-term illness? 

I think all of us have considered how we grow our patronage on vehicles. I think there are a number of initiatives we all need to look at in terms of how we attract people onto bus. The concessionary card scheme is very well used in Wales, and does expand to more than other parts of the UK in terms of how it supports people on bus. But, affordability is the priority, I would say, for most operators now, moving forward, particularly as people's behaviour has changed. So, individuals who may have purchased a monthly ticket who aren't using buses as they used to, we need to be looking at options for how we attract people onto bus and make it a viable option for them. In my company, that's something we are currently looking at, and how we make more distance fares relevant to individuals than just flat fares or fixed fares. So, I think we're all trying to prioritise how we grow that patronage back on to bus by looking at ways to be very flexible about our ticketing. 

14:05

Okay. Cities such as Brussels have demonstrated how key European cities with small populations can continue to prioritise affordability. They have annual travel passes for 18 to 24-year-olds costing only €12 a year, and €499 for adults until the age of 65. This is a question for Welsh Government, but, technically, what do you think, or do you think there's any inspiration that can be taken from other countries on making domestic travel really affordable, in line with other countries in Europe?

Yes, and I think it will be interesting to see the models that are in the UK. Scotland are working very hard at the moment to develop a model for their young people to attract their young people onto buses. And I think, until you make that journey time pertinent to the location people are trying to get to, that is going to be the challenge for young people. They want to get somewhere as quickly as possible. If you look at some of the cities across the UK—. For example, I was in Bristol a couple of weeks ago; most of the young folk in Bristol are on e-scooters now, they're not even catching buses, because, a bit like Gemma said about the active travel, people just really are doing a mile or so, so they'll hire an e-scooter. 

So, I think, yes, there is definitely something we need to do for young people, but it's something that is going to be quite challenging for operators to do alone, because you need to do it in a concentrated and large-scale process. When we look at the MyTravelPass that we have in place now, that has been successful and it has attracted young people onto bus that may not have done, but it's one of those things you need to constantly be reviewing and grow that part of the network to make them the future of bus travel. 

Yes, I've got two things. One is that one of the people who gave us evidence in our community outreach work was a disabled person in a wheelchair, who said that the bus was constantly just going past. So, what are the rules amongst your operators around the priority given to somebody in a wheelchair over, for example, somebody who's occupying that space because they've got a pushchair? How do you deal with that? And the second point is: how do you ensure that people feel safe on the bus? Harassment on the bus or drunken behaviour—what is the role of the operator, who is obviously a lone worker, or other CCTV-type things you do to ensure that people travelling on your buses are behaving on your buses?

So, predominantly, in terms of the first point of the question, the priority would be to the wheelchair user, and our drivers would do all they can to navigate someone who is in a space that they shouldn't be in or asking them to move. And that can cause conflict. So, our drivers would do all they can to ensure that someone is safe in a wheelchair area. 

In terms of the second point, most modern vehicles will have CCTV, and most drivers, if they are concerned about the behaviour of passengers with other individuals, will act, in a safe manner. They can communicate back with our supervisors and managers on a day-to-day basis, and we often will be called upon by the police to review CCTV if there's been any complaint of harassment of a customer on a bus. That's quite—. I wouldn't say it's frequent or common, but it does happen that we will be called upon to provide our CCTV if an incident has occurred. 

That's your aspiration, but our witness in the wheelchair said that she was always being bypassed, that the bus would just go on because they couldn't be bothered to—you know, the time taken to actually load the wheelchair user. 

Well, I'd be disappointed if that was something that was observed within my company, but, without knowing the specific examples, it's quite hard to quantify that issue. But I would say most times you would find that drivers are supportive and would assist, where they could, a customer to board a vehicle. 

14:10

So, what do the regulations say? Is it the wheelchair user who has priority for that space? 

Okay, thank you for that. Bev, on this as well briefly, and then we'll move on, back to Janet. 

Yes, I think it is a question full of contention and, as you rightly say, the driver, male or female, is a single worker. The attitudes of some of the public towards the driver in many cases are not pleasant, very disgraceful. I'm surprised that the question has come from a wheelchair user, because I know that Jane's company, and certainly my company, and I'm sure the majority of companies in Wales, have training courses for such eventualities. It's got to be a pretty hard-nosed guy that drives past a wheelchair, I have to say, and I don't know that it's a common occurrence. If the lady would like to get in touch, then I'd be more than happy to investigate for her, because we don't know where it's happened. 

Okay. No, you're right. It's difficult when we discuss an individual situation—

—but it's clearly unacceptable, whether it's frequent or an isolated incident. 

Just to come in briefly on that, that's feedback that we hear from community transport passengers regularly, that the reason they use community transport is because they're not getting the level of service that they need in order to be able to feel safe on the vehicle or even to board the vehicle in the first place. So, north Wales, I know, is a particular bad patch for buses driving past passengers at bus stops, not stopping, because they haven't got enough time in their timetable. Some of that, I think, is down to worries about restrictions from the traffic commissioner and being able to hit those timetable markers and milestones and getting into trouble if they're not able to do that, because it does take time, if you've got an older bus, to unload your ramp and get someone on to the vehicle. But it's something—. I worked for a long time supporting disabled people in person, and that's something that I experienced, supporting wheelchair users particularly, a number of times; it was a real barrier. And that means then, once you've had that kind of access barrier, you are significantly less likely to use the public transport system in future. 

Yes, absolutely. Okay, thank you for that. We'll come back to you then, Janet. 

—when we talked about electrifying vehicles and then we know the barriers there. 

In many ways, my question's been answered. But I just want to focus on behaviour change and the modal shift: any thoughts that you might have on the difference, say, between rural and urban, or commuter versus leisure, and any way that we perhaps need to rethink what the offer is in those terms? 

I would say rural and urban obviously have quite different contexts for the types of interventions you can make, but, broadly, I think there are two things that we need to do: one is make buses more attractive—so, reduce journey times, make the experience more comfortable, those sorts of measures. But the other bit we haven't spoken about yet, and I think this is actually quite key, is how you discourage car use, because one of the things we see again, when you look at the modelling, is you can make bus really attractive and that has a good impact, but the quickest thing to do to get people out of cars and on to public transport is to discourage car use. There's a spectrum of ways you can do that. In some towns in rural areas, it might be parking charges that provide just enough of a nudge to get people to change their behaviour. In a place like Cardiff, you might talk about congestion charging or you might talk about road user charging, those sorts of things that will change those behaviours, and, really, we need to. If we're going to really think about modal shift, we need to think about all of those issues and come up with the sorts of approaches that can have that right balance of carrot and stick, I think, and we're not quite there with it yet. 

It's actually been quite interesting, over probably the last 12 months—and it's a point that Bev raised earlier—that the town centres have been quite depleted in their offering to the community, and how local authorities have dealt with that in many ways is to improve parking charges. And I've had some interesting debates with my local authority partner around how we cannot compete when parking charges are £1 for a day, and it's been an interesting dynamic, because, of course, they're under pressure from the chambers of commerce to attract people into the towns, and we're trying to get people back on to the bus. And that dynamic is really something that we need to consider if we want to drive that modal shift, because that is the way to do it. 

I think, actually, when we look at the stats across the patronage of our business, those peaks that we would have had in the mornings and the afternoons aren't there anymore and more people are travelling for leisure and social purposes than they were previously. So, the commuter aspect—and Josh has highlighted the hybrid working and the work at home messaging—that really has changed the way people are using vehicles. And there is a risk there, because what you find is that that group of people were the revenue-producing part of bus travel that goes back into supporting reinvestment in bus travel, versus maybe the social or the concessionary card users who are using the bus at those times. So, it's just one we need to be mindful of in being able to look at how we reinvest in the bus industry moving forward.

14:15

I'm conscious Huw wants to come in. Huw, do you want to make a point and then I'll ask Gemma to address a couple of things?

Yes, thanks, Chair. There seems to be a consistent pattern coming across now from all of our evidence sessions of the need to do the whole piece there, including ways to incentivise people to get out of their cars and to incentivise people to get on to public transport, modal shift, and also this point about that it's got to be done strategically, not on a piecemeal basis. But I wonder if any of our panellists would like to comment on something that came up in an earlier evidence session, where it was suggested that, really, in all of our major urban areas—our Newports, Wrexhams, Cardiffs et cetera—you shouldn't really have something that's in any way making it easy for you to get in there by car, you should be actually seeking to use mass transport to go into those cities, and that, mainly, you drive a little bit, you park your car up and you go and you walk to the train station, which takes you into the city or whatever, that, actually it should be shifted entirely the other way, but that might look very different in rural areas.

I think that something that we hear a lot from passengers who live in rural communities, of which there are a substantial number in Wales, is there are significant barriers—say, for example, if you wanted to travel actively to your nearest bus stop or to your nearest transport interchange, to be able to do that puts you at significant risk, because there isn't active travel infrastructure, there isn't a safe pavement, potentially the cycle routes have got barriers, so, if you use a non-standard cycle, it means that you're not able to use that cycle network. That is being tackled by local authorities and investment is being made, but it isn't happening fast enough, and we're still seeing people experiencing barriers to using the national cycle network, which then limits their ability to make those multimodal journeys. 

I think something that we would definitely like to see is greater investment in the opportunities to create these more rural and intra-urban transport hubs, multimodal transport hubs, that bring together different kinds of transport to allow people to make more of the journeys that work for them. So, a lot of people we hear from might want to take their child to school, for example, then travel to work. Maybe they call in to an older relative on their way home, pick the child up from school, back to home—all of those kinds of things. The bus system as it works at the moment doesn't really facilitate those kinds of journeys and that doesn't really even get into the realms of active travel either, for the majority. So, to be able to get maybe a community car or a small Fflecsi minibus or a community transport minibus into your local multimodal hub, to then be able to pick up one of the mainstream forms of public transport to be able to make the next phase of your journey, I think would make that a lot more realistic for people. And it would mean then that you wouldn't be reliant on big vehicles; they could be prioritised on the main commuter routes, where you've got lots of people travelling, which need those bigger forms of transport. But having more flexible options that are designed with a community lead, I think, we see evidence of how effective that is.

Newtown, for example, have spent an awful lot of time working in partnership with their community to actually identify what are the needs that they have in that community, what are the potential solutions, and then working in partnership with the community to create things that actually meet the needs that have been identified in partnership with the commercial sector, and it's worked really, really well. So, we'd like to see more of that happening, where there's a blend between the different modes of transport and an appreciation of the different ways in which different kinds of transport bring value into that equation to serve people's needs more effectively. 

14:20

Yes, just to address Huw's points, I think I agree with what he was saying around urban areas. I think the only point I'd add is that it's more about the mindset change, rather than saying, 'You can do it in urban, but not in rural.' So, I mentioned earlier on that there's a spectrum of things you can do: you can do car parking type interventions in rural areas; that's something that can take place anywhere. You probably can't do bus priority measures into small towns where there's not congestion, because it's not going to have the same impact. But the key thing is getting everyone into that mindset change, where the starting point is not that the car is the way that things happen, it's the public transport is the way that things happen, and the car works around that. So, I would just say that it's not an 'urban, yes; rural, no'; it's more of a spectrum.

And then just to add that we've actually had a live experiment, haven't we, over Christmas, where we had some local authorities do free bus travel or reduced-cost bus travel and others do free car parking, and I think we missed an opportunity there, to be honest, as a nation, to look through that data, to put it into this bigger wrapper and to see what the impact on behaviour was through that.

So, local authorities approach these differently, but we've got a long way to go, I think, to get everyone into the 'free bus travel' kind of column rather than the 'car parking for free' column.

Absolutely. Okay, thank you. Thank you so much for all of that. Before we come on to Delyth, can I just ask, particularly in terms of the community transport sector—we passed over decarbonisation a little bit—is there anything in particular in terms of challenges for your sector particularly, in relation to that agenda?

It's a real area of challenge, I would say. Operators are reporting to us that there's a huge interest in decarbonising the fleet. The community transport fleet in Wales is generally fairly old, well used; we've got lots of vehicles that are 10 years plus out on the roads. We have been able to support some operators to transition to newer Euro 6 models and we've been able to tap into reactive funding opportunities through the local authorities ultra low emission vehicle fund the year before last. We've, through the household support fund, been able to secure some funding in the western Valleys for a project there; they're all going to be electric vehicles, which is really exciting. But it's very ad hoc, it's very reactive. At the moment, the marketplace for the kinds of vehicles community transport operators use is extremely limited. So, we've just submitted a consultation response to the DfT on the aspirations to end the sale of diesel community transport minibuses by 2030 and the challenges that are inherent in that, particularly where—. Because the sector—. There are a lot of volunteer drivers. Some of those will have a full D1 licence; some of them use a standard car licence, so they can't drive the larger minibuses, of which most electric minibuses fall into that bracket.

So, there's a lot, I would say, of challenges that operators are trying to work out how they navigate, and particularly where—. We've got a lot of members who try and fund the replacement of their vehicles through depreciation funds; potentially, they build some of the cost of the replacement of those vehicles into their fares. Because the electric buses or electric cars are so much more expensive, it's really challenging. You can't work to the same timetable as you would have done with a diesel vehicle. Alternatively, you can put your fares up significantly, but it then means you're excluding significant portions of the population; part of the reason a lot of those operators exist is because people can't afford to use other modes of transport. So, you can't put your service on an unaffordable playing field, but, at the same time, you have to find ways of funding the replacement of those buses.

So, yes. It's something I would say—. What we're really keen to see—. The funding structure for the community transport sector, we're really welcoming the opportunity that the recognition of the value of the community transport sector that Welsh Government has given over the last couple of years; what we'd like to see is a preplanned, sustainable funding strategy that will enable the operators to be able to step into that decarbonised space in a more planned way.