Posted: Mon 4th May 2020

Economy Minister tells Arriva Buses Wales to “step up to the challenge” to ensure critical workers can travel

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Monday, May 4th, 2020

Economy Minister Ken Skates has called on a Welsh bus company to “step up to the challenge” to ensure critical workers can get to their place of employment.

Arriva Buses Wales recently made reductions to its timetables, citing the coronavirus restrictions and low numbers of people travelling.

The Minister highlighted a story by the Daily Post where the firm had been slammed by a staff member at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd due to the changes, with staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Llandudno General Hospital reportedly facing similar problems because of cancelled services.

Clwyd West AM, Darren Millar said he had spoken with Arriva and claimed bus operators were facing “tough choices” because of a lack of support from the Welsh Government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The story also quotes a company spokesperson who appeared to put the blame at the door of Mr Skates, who has now hit back at the comments.

He said: “There was a story regarding Arriva Buses Wales. The comments by Arriva do not reflect the sentiments of the bus sector across Wales and are somewhat misleading.

“The fact of the matter is that we’ve taken action to protect the services in Wales making hardship funding available for companies, £29 million of hardship funding, and the reality is that the announcement in England only brought the funding levels into line with support that was already being made available for the bus industry in Wales.

“Now these are difficult circumstances for everyone, but we would expect services to be available for critical workers.

“Transport for Wales is having regular discussions with the bus industry about the provision of services for critical workers and will raise issues that have been highlighted in the media with those bus companies, including Arriva.”

Mr Skates pointed out that in the last five years of its rail franchise Arriva had paid dividends to its shareholders of nearly £100m after receiving £800m in subsidies from taxpayers in Wales.

Meanwhile, in 2018, he said its bus business in Wales posted a profit of £1.5m having received £12m of Welsh public money.

He added: “I think it’s only right and fair, the public in North Wales expect businesses including Arriva to step up to the national challenge and to ensure that all critical workers are able to get to their places of work.”

The comments came as the minister praised the wider North Wales business community, which he said had “stepped up magnificently” in dealing with the challenges of the virus and supporting the national effort to overcome it.

Mr Skates said it was a battle faced by all and urged everyone to focus on the task.

He said: “I have found already during the course of this crisis that that there are three types of people, those who step up to the challenge, those who step back, and those that step in the way for either selfish purposes or to create disruption.

“It has to be said that overwhelmingly people across North Wales, and businesses across North Wales, have stepped up to assist in the fight against coronavirus

“Of course, we wish to end lockdown in a phased way as soon as we can but our primary concern is with public health, and ensuring that we don’t have a second wave because the worst thing for the economy in North Wales will be for coronavirus to return with a vengeance later in the year or next year.

“It would cause terrible disruption to the economy on a secondary basis after this first wave. In particular for some some sectors that are struggling right now, and will struggle for the rest of 2020.

“Let’s say, as an example, the tourism sector, the last thing that the tourism sector needs is to find that the season of 2021 has been lost. Therefore, it’s absolutely vital that we deal with this virus once and for all in 2020.”

 



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