From July 8 2017, the Welsh Government is funding a 9-month trial of free weekend travel for all on the TrawsCymru bus network (ie bus routes beginning with T).
So why has this stirred a moribund blog out of its torpor – what’s this got to do with food?
It’s being launched just as we go into food festival season, making it the ideal way to travel to your foodie (and drinkie) festivals.
Two years ago we were delighted by the Aberaeron Beer & Cider Festival.
Our only gripe all day was that the bus from Blaenplwyf to Aberaeron was over £12 for two – money better spent on beer & cider.
When the festival returns (Fri 11th & Sat 12th Aug 2017) we’ll be there – and this time the bus will be free.
The free weekend buses are:
- TrawsCymru T1 Aberystwyth – Lampeter – Carmarthen;
- TrawsCymru T1C Carmarthen – Swansea – Cardiff;
- TrawsCymru T2 Bangor – Dolgellau – Aberystwyth;
- TrawsCymru T3 Wrexham – Llangollen – Barmouth;
- TrawsCymru T4 Newtown – Brecon – Cardiff;
- TrawsCymru T5 Aberystwyth – Abeaeron – Cardigan – Haverfordwest;
- TrawsCymru T6 Brecon – Ystradgynlais – Neath and Swansea;
- Cardiff Airport Express T9 Cardiff city centre to Cardiff Airport.
Or even easier, plan your route via this handy map from TrawsCymru:
If you peruse a list of prominent food festivals (eg this) with that map open, you could set yourself up nicely for a summer of exciting days out.
And don’t forget the small, local festivals, like the seafood ones in Aberystwyth and Aberaeron.
Isn’t this good news?
You can get around the whole country for free, with maybe the East-West link from Newtown-Llanidloes-Aberystwyth the only glaring omission.
This is an excellent use of Welsh Government money (unlike the £300,000 being wasted on seeing how unlikely re-opening the Aberystywth – Carmathen Railway is).
Travelling by bus is one of the least attractive ways to travel – until it’s free! Just look at how buses are now full of delighted pensioners!
But why should just pensioners get the benefits, especially since so many of them tried to ruin Britain by voting for Brexit?
A quick look at the always-busy A487 shows how popular this scheme will be – my only fear is that this will be too popular, and the buses will be heaving.
Hopefully this will lead to a virtuous circle as greater demand increases the number of buses, and the greater frequency of buses drives up demand.
This will be particularly useful on Sundays, when you’re more likely to see a dog on a skateboard than a bus (eg no T5, and just FOUR T1 buses all day, on a Sunday).
Getting cars off the road is a stated policy of Welsh Government, and this is a more positive way than increasing parking charges (which discourages visitors).
Sadly, the environmental costs of driving don’t show up on balance sheets, but investing a (reasonable) £1million of the transport budget into an environmentally friendly scheme such as this is a clever use of funds.
It will encourage people out of their cars, and into places they wouldn’t ordinarily go.
It will be a huge hit with Visit Wales and the tourism industry – I can imagine Wales becoming internationally famous as “The Land of Free Buses”!
And it will revitalise a public transport system that can seem inadequate to our rural population.
Plus, this is a rare Welsh Government initiative that doesn’t focus solely on the Labour-voting Valleys of South Wales.
I urge everyone to get behind this scheme, but don’t all pack out the 11.09 T1 to Aberystwyth on Saturday – I need to get to the library and Wetherspoons Cider Festival.
**Update 9 July 2017. This worked brilliantly – bus was busy but not too full. This removed four car journeys just by us using it, and by the end of the day two buses were running each route.
I really hope this trial is a success.
I had a quick chat with Professor Stuart Coles from TrawsCymru at the bus stop, and very interesting he was.
Did you know it only takes an average of six passengers for a bus to break even over its journey? If this scheme makes bus travel more popular, it could revolutionise transport and environmental policies in Wales and beyond. **