Sunday, 15 May 2011

Community transport price rises slated

Pensioners are being charged "excessive amounts" by a community transport scheme designed to help people travel between villages in West Wrexham, according to critics.

Now a local councillor is calling for the West Wheels scheme - which covers the Gwersyllt, Coedpoeth, Brymbo, Brynteg, Llay and Broughton areas - to be revamped because it's becoming more costly than an ordinary taxi.

Councillor Arfon Jones, the Plaid Cymru councillor for Gwersyllt West, said the project had been very useful in enabling people to get out and about in the villages. But he was critical of recent price hikes that have seen the cost per person of travelling go up to £2 per journey and £3 if the journey is between two villages. Cllr Jones said the price rises had been made without consulting the people who relied on the service and threatened to price them out of using the service.

His criticisms were echoed by Megan Davies, who lives on the Old Mold Road estate, Gwersyllt, said:
“I use West Wheels to visit my brother in Llay, that will cost now cost me £6, so I’ll have to get two buses there and back, what used to be a short journey will now take me all day.”

Elsie James, of Shaftesbury Avenue, Gwersyllt, said:
“I’m 85 yrs old and I rely on West Wheels to take me to the Resource Centre which is only half a mile away. I can’t afford £4 every time I want to go there and I can’t get the bus because I’m unsteady on my feet. I’ll be stuck in the house.”

The additional charges also threaten to hit local voluntary groups and services. Gwenfair Jones, who runs the Luncheon Club in Gwersyllt, where 30 pensioners get together to enjoy a meal every fortnight, said:
“We use West Wheels to bring members to the Lunch Club free of charge. This decision to charge will make the club unaffordable for those without their own transport and will impact on the long-term future of the club. A meal that cost £4 would now cost £8 once the West Wheels fare was included.”

Cllr Jones added:
“I am disappointed that the Community Development Team in Coedpoeth in conjunction with the West Wrexham Partnership have decided to charge those entitled to concessionary travel without consultation with users. At present these organisations pay Wrexham Prestige Taxis a hefty sum to provide a community transport system which is of dubious quality and reliability, rather than using that money to establish a social enterprise with their own vehicles to provide the service.”

Cllr Jones also called on the Welsh Government to extend concessionary travel to Community Transport projects:
“It’s a ridiculous state of affairs that bus pass concessionary travel does not apply to Community Transport. It’s an anomaly that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

The new Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for North Wales, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, also expressed his concern at the charges and has pledged to raise the matter in the Assembly. Mr Gruffydd said:
"Villages such as Gwersyllt, Coedpoeth and Brymbo are allocated this money under European Urban 2 funding because there was a need. That need is still there and I will be raising the matter with the relevant minister in the Assembly as soon as possible."

From left:

Critics of the new charges - Cllr Arfon Jones, Elsie James, Megan Davies, Mary Jenkins, Gwenfair Jones (organiser of the Gwersyllt luncheon club), Cybil Hallam and Jean Hughes.


Bob Roberts said...

West Wheels isn't part of West Wrexham Development Team Cllr Jones. It moved across to the transport department last year.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Doesn't detract from the fact that it was moved to Transport for a particular reason. West Wrexham Partnership have had years of handing money over to taxi operators whereby with a little though and initiative they could have set up a sustainable social enterprise in the last 10 years. As it is all we have is community action plans...time to have some action from Community Development!

Anonymous said...

The community development team has been working on action plans for the last 3 years. I think its time for less consultation and more action.

Half the time they just attend community meetings, stick their oar in and cause problems anyway.