Innovative Bus Schemes Are Returning a Social Dividend; WALESINMOTION WITH PROFESSOR STUART COLE
WE often think of high technology as our benchmark for innovation and for many aspects of travel this is the case particularly as more of us turn to public transport by land for our work and leisure journeys.
High speed trains such as the French TGV and international Eurostar catch our attention. Eurostar has reduced the journey time between London and Paris to two hours 15 minutes from ten hours in 1994.
The Welsh Government has to continue discussions with Whitehall to ensure the electrification of the South Wales to London railway (and High Speed 3) is not cut or delayed - essential innovation for a competitive South Wales economy. But while these high investment schemes are vital there are other innovations far closer to home in both densely populated and deep rural Welsh settings.
At Newport Bus, the fleet age profile is under five years old, the livery is modern but it has two other innovative aspects - the introduction of a business work area on its X30 service between Newport and Cardiff and its innovative multi trip travel card, the Newport "Passport".
The "passport" parallels the Oyster smart card scheme in London, and the National Concessionary Bus Pass, now itself a smart card and an innovation almost ten years ago far in advance of England.
The Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, has indicated the Government's desire to bring together these and the proposed "all Wales transport entitlement card" or Cerdyn Cymru (my preferred name). The Newport Bus travel card, lower and simpler fares and an objective to make the bus a better travel experience has resulted in passenger demand increases in addition to those from the bus pass.
While Newport Bus on a pounds 10.1m turnover achieves a profit level - comparing operating expenditure - of 14.4% its financial objective is to break even with a commitment to invest more than pounds 1m per annum until 2015 on new buses at pounds 175,000 each.
In more rural Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion one might expect public transport use to be low and falling. But weekly bus passenger demand along the Teifi Valley between Aberteifi and Carmarthen has risen by more than 45% since last August.
The reason is Bwcabus. The system, developed by the Wales Transport Research Centre at the University of Glamorgan, has a computer based satellite communication geographic information system, bus scheduling, a map gazetteer of the operating area all linked to the Traveline Cymru call centre and the controller. …