Media reports have suggested that the Welsh Government’s mytravelpass scheme, which offers discounts on Welsh bus travel for 18-16 year olds, is soon to be withdrawn. However, recent statements from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure indicate that it may not have reached the end of the road just yet.
This blog post explains the background to the scheme and how it operates, along with an update on the most recent statements from the Cabinet Secretary.
Why was the scheme introduced?
In autumn 2014 the Welsh Government reached an agreement with the Liberal Democrats in the Assembly to support the Government’s draft budget. One aspect of the agreement was the introduction of a youth concessionary fares scheme.
Mytravelpass was subsequently launched in September 2015 on an 18 month pilot basis with funding of £15m.
The current pilot ends on 31 March 2017.
How does the scheme currently work?
Mytravelpass offers young people at least a one third discount on equivalent adult bus fares, although some operators may offer additional discounts. This includes local bus services which operate wholly in Wales or where the trip originates or terminates in Wales. The TrawsCymru long distance bus service is also included.
To be eligible for the pass, applicants must:
- be aged 16 to 18 inclusive; and
- have their primary residence in Wales (including those studying in Wales, provided they reside here).
The application process is handled by Traveline Cymru, the public transport information service funded by the Welsh Government. Users are issued with a photographic mytravelpass card which they must show when buying their ticket.
Details of how to apply are available on the mytravelpass website. Applications can be made online, by post or over the phone. During the pilot phase, the pass has been provided at no cost to the user, although applicants must provide a passport-sized photo to be included for ID purposes. No proof of age or address is required with the application, but the details may be verified by third parties on behalf of the Welsh Government.
The mytravelpass website includes frequently asked questions with further information.
So what’s happening to the scheme now?
Uptake of the pass has been low. Despite a total market estimated at about 110,000 young people, by mid-January 2017 the total number of passes issued since the scheme’s launch was around 8,300.
On 18 October 2016, during questions following his Plenary statement on the future of bus services in Wales, the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged the limited uptake of the scheme. He said “every opportunity—and I think any opportunity—that we get to flag up the existence of the pass we should take”. He also highlighted the role of the bus sector itself in marketing “concessionary travel opportunities”.
Three months later in January 2017 media reports suggested the scheme was being withdrawn at the end of the pilot period. Welsh Government sources were quoted saying that the decision was based on analysis indicating that pass holders were not using the pass to travel outside their local area.
However, responding to a question in Plenary on 24 January 2017 the Cabinet Secretary said work was underway on a “legacy scheme”:
I remain very keen that there should be a legacy scheme after the current mytravelpass ends on 31 March. My officials have had encouraging discussions with representatives of local authorities and with the confederation of bus operators. I’m optimistic that I will be able to confirm the details of the successor programme very soon.
….this was a pilot scheme, and therefore something that we can learn from. And we have learnt from it. The fact of the matter is that uptake was not as high as we would’ve wished, which is why I’m very keen for the successor programme to reach more young people across Wales. I believe it’s something in the region of 10,000 young people who took advantage of the mytravelpass scheme; I would wish to see that number grow far more with the scheme that will emerge, which I’m hoping to announce within the coming weeks.
Young people in Wales and bus operators alike will await the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement with interest.
Article by Andrew Minnis, National Assembly for Wales Research Service