Arriva Buses Wales is giving the campaign to rebuild Wales missing rail link an early Christmas present. All its routes south from Aberystwyth – to Aberaeron, Newquay, Lampeter, Camarthen and Cardiff – are to be cut from December 21st.
The shock announcement removes the only long distance public transport link between mid-west and south Wales. Arriva, a multi-national company, is doing this because it can. It is simply acting in its own commercial interests – and that’s government policy. Quoted on the BBC, the Welsh Government’s first reaction, besides being “naturally disappointed” was that it was a “commercial matter for the company”.
A brief reality check is needed here. A Labour government is in power in Cardiff Bay. That’s the party that nationalised our railways in the public interest in the 1940s. But all it can say today about the closure of west Wales’ main north-south public transport link is that it is a commercial matter.
We think not. This absurd situation is a consequence not only of Beeching’s destruction of the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth rail service, but of Tory deregulation of buses in the 1980s. Even though the Tories went on to privatise the railways, it would be impossible (and illegal) for a rail link between Wales’ capital city and the home of its National Library and a leading university to be closed on a commercial whim.
And that is the bottom line of the case against buses. Easy come, easy go. No doubt local operators will be found to run replacement services for a while, some of which may even provide decent transport links with other providers. But sooner or later, even these services will succumb to the under-funded, underregulated world of bus transport.
Fishguard Trains has not previously been a great supporter of the campaign to restore rail between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. But Arriva’s commercial decision now throws down a gauntlet to any politician in Cardiff Bay who claims to want a well-connected Wales in future. If you mean business, you’ll have to go by train.