Friday, 1 April 2011

Protect local firms from bus takeover

Plaid candidate's concern over council review

A council has been warned not to opt for a single school transport provider as it looks to simplify its transport provision.

The warning comes from Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham Marc Jones, who is concerned that a large bus company could take the lion's share of the council's annual multi-million pound bus and taxi contracts.

He said:
"Just this week we've seen Veolia, a French-owned multinational bus firm, withdraw unexpectedly from contracts in Swansea and creating uncertainty in Rhondda Cynon Taff. There are similar concerns in Powys. If Wrexham Council opts for a large provider, then we're in danger of putting all our eggs in one basket and excluding smaller contractors."

He spoke out as the council discusses ways to reform the current transport arrangements, which mean more than 400 individual contracts with different taxi, minibus or bus providers.

Marc Jones, who is also a county councillor, said:
"There is obviously a need to simplify the system and ensure that it works more efficiently, so that we don't have two companies picking up from the same street to take children to the same school. That's a common sense way to save money without losing a service and should be happening already.

"My concern is that, in trying to simplify the system, we could go to the other extreme and opt for a large transport firm that promises the earth to get the contract and then, as seems to be the case with Veolia, suddenly pulls the plug.

"We also have to consider the impact such a move would have on the very many small-scale bus and taxi operators in the borough, who ensure that council money stays in the local economy. I'm glad council officers are looking to make improvements and efficiencies to the service and support those reforms, with the aim always to ensure the safety of the children being transported."

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