Exempt buses from Wales’s 20mph limit to discourage drivers, says report

An Arriva bus leaves the bus stop outside Conwy town centre station, on October 2021, in Conwy, Gwynedd, Wales.
People wait at a bus stop - Getty Images/Richard Baker

Buses should be exempt from the 20mph speed limit being imposed in Wales, a union-backed report has said.

The Welsh Trades Union Congress (TUC) sponsored the analysis, which calls for the introduction of exemptions for buses to make them more competitive with cars and encourage people to take public transport.

The report by the Centre for Cities think tank suggested that removing the 20mph speed limit could make bus journeys faster than cars, and lead to a modal shift that would reduce the use of private vehicles.

In September, the Welsh Government brought in a blanket 20mph limit for all residential roads in a bid to reduce road deaths and encourage more people to cycle or walk.

It comes as the Government has announced its aim to have 45 per cent of all journeys use public transport and active travel options by 2040.

The report said: “The local authorities should exempt bus lanes from the new 20mph speed limit when they find it safe and appropriate.

“This could make public transport more competitive against the car and increase the benefits of building new bus lanes.

“By restricting these speed exemptions only to bus lanes, this should not create a safety issue with other modes of transport.”

The introduction of the 20mph zone across Wales has been highly controversial, with critics pointing to the detrimental impact it has had on bus journey times.

Arriva, one of Wales’s biggest transport providers, said in September that the 20mph limit had lengthened journey times, leading to more buses being late.

The company, which provides dozens of services in North Wales, is currently undertaking a “large-scale review of its network” that could result in changing routes and frequencies to buses.

The TUC-backed report said cars were “more competitive” than buses or other forms of public transport in many places in Wales due to the country’s rural population.

It said this could be changed through an expansion of the public transport networks but also by “maximising the performance of the existing network too”.

It suggested that the most effective way of doing this was to make bus lanes exempt from the speed limit, while also allocating a much greater subsidy to public transport.

The report also suggested a congestion charge within Cardiff that would create a disincentive for non-residents to drive into the city.

A new £2 congestion charge for each car entering Cardiff is one of the proposals currently being put forward. The report suggests this should cover a much smaller area within the centre of Cardiff, with the charge being raised to £3.

The Welsh Government spokesman told The Telegraph that it had no plans to introduce exemptions to the 20mph limit for buses.

He said: “We have been clear from the outset that we would monitor any impacts of the 20mph on bus services. We are working closely with bus operators, local authorities and Transport for Wales to tackle the challenges the industry is facing.”

Natasha Asghar MS, the Welsh Conservative shadow transport minister, said: “It is undeniable that the Labour Government is waging a war on motorists forcing people out of their cars and removing the freedom of choice to drive, this report gives Labour all the excuses needed to enact their regressive plans.

“With the report recommending buses be exempt from Labour’s blanket 20mph speed limit, this gives the Labour Government further justification to remove cars from our roads under the guise of saying it will promote economic and productivity growth which is absurd.”

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